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John Miller

THE SINGING MOON  •  John Reischman & John Miller
NOCHES DE FIESTA  •  Ruthie Dornfeld & John Miller
IT'S EASY TO REMEMBER  •  Rebecca Kilgore & John Miller
CATWALK  •  Catwalk (Paul Elliot, Tom Moran, John Miller)

In the mid 70s, on the rambunctious third floor of our farmhouse in Upper Bucks County, PA, my brothers, bandmates, and I were digesting and dissecting many different kinds of music, and having a damn good time at it. (I'll never forget the time I almost fell out the third floor window, I was laughing so hard...) My brother Bill and I were fingerstyle enthusiasts and one of the albums we held most highly was a Blue Goose record called Rope Stretchin' Blues by a wicked guitarist, then from upstate NY, named John Miller. We listened to everybody we could get our hands on and he was as good as anybody in that genre. (He'd also been an upright bass player in a highly regarded bluegrass outfit named Country Cooking, but we didn’t know those recordings.)

In the Pacific Northwest, where John migrated, he's rather well known by acoustic insiders. But the national public at large is probably not aware of his greatness, so we're very happy to be exposing his unbelievable guitar playing and compositions to our readership.

He's not flashy, he's not loud. He's understated, supremely tasteful, and a completely badass groover. He's gone on from country blues to play and compose a lot of jazz (authored a book on fingerpicking Gershwin, no less) and Latin style music, various European and Eastern influenced tunes, and many that defy labeling. On these four discs, he's paired with other stringsmiths of rare dimension or accompanying a jazz vocalist on spirited and original takes on classic standards.

The pure, deep musical well of John Miller cannot be fully accessed on the internet, so far as we can determine. But if you like great acoustic guitar paired with virtuoso mandolinists, violinists, and vocalists, he's your man. Check out the clips on our Listen page. Some of these discs are available from online retailers, but if you have trouble finding what you need, you can contact the artist himself here.

And this just in: a brand new album from John Reischman and John Miller is coming out as this issue goes up. Called Bumpy Road (on Corvus), it promises more great guitar and mandolin duets that pick up where The Singing Moon left off, with some added emphasis on John's lead playing.

We've also learned that two Japanese labels (Vivid Sound and Air Mail Archive) have recently brought out the classic John Miller albums from the 70s and 80s, originally on Rounder and Blue Goose. They're available now as imports. To hear clips from those early recordings (and more), visit the remarkable labor-of-love site created by German guitarist and blues enthusiast Stefan Wirz (www.wirz.de). Go here, then scroll down the index to M and click on John Miller, then go to discographies and click John Miller there. (Once again it's the passionate interest of the Japanese and the Europeans keeping American music treasures from sinking into obscurity.) • FG

Bumpy Road listen to clips
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