Brandon Miller – Virtue and Vice
13 songs – 70 minutes
Best known as a founding member of the Danielle Nicole Band, Kansas City-based Brandon Miller steps out of the shadows for the first time in six years as a front man for this powerful collection of blues drenched Americana that shows why he’s a fan favorite wherever he appears.
A product of Gardner, Kan., where the Santa Fe and California Trails split about 35 miles southwest of Eight Street and Vine, Miller always dreamed about a musical career in music, something that was enforced by witnessing Aerosmith, Rush and Kiss up close in childhood. His interest in guitar began at age 17 when he saw Kenny Wayne Shepherd for the first time.
Influenced heavily by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa, Brandon studied music through high school and college before launching a band under his own name, releasing two CDs in the process – Long Goodbye in 2011 and Slow Train three years later. His 2017 album, Live at Knuckleheads, exhibited plenty of the six-string fireworks you’ll hear here.
A gifted songwriter who switches off between electric and acoustic arrangements, Miller penned 11 originals here — blending blues, rock, country and roots — in addition to covering one song each from the catalogs of Tom Petty and George Harrison. Recorded at Weights and Measures Soundlab in the City of Fountains, he’s backed by Damon Parker on keys, Go-Go Ray on drums and Dylan Reiter on bass.
“Gone” opens the action with a quiet acoustic intro before erupting into an unhurried, driving blues-rock complaint about Brandon finding himself alone at home and knowing he has to move on after his woman splits. It quiets briefly at the break before exploding prior to a diminished acoustic close. The tempo quickens slightly for “Fire” and “Virtue and Vice,” which continue the sense of loss forward atop a percussive shuffle.
The seven-minute ballad “Dirt to Stone” is up next, announcing that the relationship truly is a broken dream. It’s highlighted by a mid-tune break that features Brandon’s soaring, bittersweet, single-not guitar runs juxtaposed to Parker’s steady chording. The mood brightens with the medium-paced shuffle, “Bad Situation,” which expresses the realization the singer stayed too long, a message that continues in the driving rocker, “Ain’t Welcome Here No More.”
A fairly faithful cover of Petty’s “Honey Bee” is up next before the acoustic ballad “Captured by You” comes across with a slight, pleasant country feel. The energetic blues-rocker “Losing Control” describes the feeling of living life too fast before things quiet again momentarily for “Win to Lose,” a powerful statement in which Brandon wants to run away to save himself from another seemingly impossible relationship.
It’s a difficult discovery, which Miller expresses in “Love Ain’t No Guarantee,” the realization of which is expressed subtly by the brightness and lack of tension in the arrangement despite the subject. “Road Less Traveled,” a country-tinged number with Brandon on slide, and a stellar take on Harrison’s familiar “While My Guitar Weeps for You.”
Available in CD and LP format through most major retailers or autographed direct from the artist (address above). If you favor blues-rock, this one’s definitely for you, although – in a world plagued with coronavirus – you’d better be in the right frame of mind because of the downer messages within.