Mark Miller – Standing On Shoulders
This stirring album of ten songs that are a tribute to his ancestors is constructed with the subtle interplay between the thudding drums, clarity of the mandolin, banjo & dobro. While Georgia-born Mark Miller isn’t entirely a distinctive voice it has a rich Vince Gill color to it that’s captivating. There’s lots of authenticity in his music & probably some of these highly original songs are what really focus on his talent. Unlike many in this genre who sing about the same tireless subjects with the same cliched lines, Miller is a highly polished troubadour with equal parts intensity & poignancy.
He sings of standing on his great grandfather’s shoulders – you want an original song I give you Mark Miller’s “Standing On Shoulders.”
The one album that deserves a lyric insert doesn’t have one. Because in many ways these kinds of songs just may find many people who can relate personally to them & Miller says it the way they can’t.
So, the tunes touch upon unlikely scenarios but instead of singing about the event he sings about the people affected by the event. The Civil War, Great Depression & the Dust Bowl. It differentiates between drama & validates the reasons things happen. “I Wonder,” has that kind of validity.
The music is gratifying, perfectly suited to the words & like “Superman (I’ll Be Your Ghost),” is a substantial heartfelt penetrating tale. What makes it special is the creative way Miller (acoustic guitar) unfolds each verse. Written by producer Robin Dean Salmon (former member of a wonderful rock band See No Evil — “Don’t Cry” & “Never On Your Knees” years ago).
The 36-minute Standing On Shoulders (Drops Aug 19–Independent) is a smartly conceived 10-song collection in a 6-panel foldout with vintage pictures of Mark Miller’s great-grandfather as a good-looking young teen.
With “War Is Hell,” Miller uses his Vince Gill-type vocal aggressively & comes off as a bonafide grandson to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott & Phil Ochs musically. The entire album is one big respectfully dedicated diary of songs that was influenced by the sudden early death of Mark’s father from what else? Covid.
With “Tragedy,” music soars with emotion – mindful of Cindy Bullens’ LP Somewhere Between Heaven & Earth, written after losing her cancer-stricken 11-year-old daughter Jessie.
“With a furrowed brow, clenched fist…” Miller has one of the year’s best.
Musicians – Jeff Taylor (accordion/piano/B-3 & pump organ/Irish whistle), Alex Nifong (electric & baritone guitar), David Ellis (mandolin/banjo/piano), Drew Lawson (upright/electric bass), Matt Crouse (drums) & Scott Peters (cello).
Photo courtesy of Miller’s Facebook. CD @ https://www.facebook.com/millersmillmusic