12 songs – 60 minutes
Guitarist/vocalist David Michael Miller gets a big assist from legendary sacred steel performers the Campbell Brothers in this project, an interesting blend of original blues, rock and gospel that captures your attention from the first note.
A veteran of the western New York music scene, where he was honored as the top male blues vocalist last year, Miller started his musical career in church and interned in Nashville before going home to form Painted By Moses in the mid-‘90s before moving on to blues/roots with Beautiful Bones, his family band, a few years later. He’s been front man for Dive House Union — a jam band that’s shared the stage with James Cotton, Tedeshi Trucks, Gary Clark Jr. and Jimmy Vaughan among others. The group’s toured regularly and earned honors as a semi-finalist in the Blues Foundation’s 2013 International Blues Challenge.
Powerful both as a guitarist and vocalist, Miller’s been planning this first solo effort for several years after working with Buffalo-based producer/keyboard player Jesse Miller on this and other projects. This disc features sacred steel solos by Chuck Campbell on pedal steel and brother Darick on lap steel while brother Carlton holds down drums and bandmate Daric Bennett contributes bass.
They’re joined by saxophonist Jason Moynihan, who’s worked with Buddy Guy, and keyboard player Jim Ehinger (Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal), as well as a host of Buffalo area talent, including Rufus McGee Jr. (organ), Barry Arbogast (saxophone), Stephen Jacob Mclean Jr. (trumpet), Ron Davis (accordion), Serena Young, Ashely Brown and Jasmine Neeley (backing vocals).
The theme of a running battle between good and evil runs through this work and its subtitle reads “twelve treatments to soothe the soul.” But it delivers to a secular audience without any additional effort. “Hand Me Downs” features Chuck Campbell. It’s a hard-hitting, uptempo blues-rocker about wearing clothes left behind by a brother shot dead in a schoolyard. Chuck continues lead along with Ehinger for the funky “Edge Of The End Of The World,” which provides hope when dealing with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The pace slows for “Memphis Belle,” a six-minute burner, as Darrick kicks off this tale of the first look at a new love who “soothes like heaven, but hurts like hell.”
“Hope Finds A Way” provides inspiration for someone who down in the dumps, driving home the point there’ll be a positive outcome in a life’s worth living atop some searing guitar lines. “Moonshine” is reminiscence and homage to first love and marriage, toasted with a little sweet home-made elixir. The rapid-fire “Spent” is a tribute to a hard-working mother who never stops attending to chores before the pace slows for “Carolina Bound,” a musical reverie about leaving the cold of the North for a warmer climate where sweeter memories will grow in spring – or at least taking a vacation from the pain.
“Careless” is another slow-paced portrait of a person, possibly a child, who goes from one life-threatening situation to another without any sense of danger, as “fragile as you are wild.” Next up, “Diggin On Bill” relates experiencing a day when nothing’s going right. But Miller starts listening to the music of Bill Withers, and everything changes for the better. Although there’s no mention of the late, great singer in the handsomely packaged liner notes, there are several allusions to his tunes in the lyrics. Three more tunes — “Once,” a positive look back at crumbling and rebuilding once life; “Movin On,” about leaving troubles in the rear-view mirror; and “Extraordinary,” a tribute to man with all his successes and failings – conclude the work.
While this disc isn’t your grandfather’s blues by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a highly successful undertaking on many levels. The tunes, while inspirational, are not preachy, and their message is clear. And the music is top-notch. If your tastes run beyond the only one-four-five, if you’re looking for something refreshing and original, you’ll love Poison Sipped. It definitely won’t kill you, and it probably will brighten your day!