Imagine that Tom Waits, circa 1980, got religion instead of a megaphone, and you'll have a good idea what Michael Paul Miller's latest album sounds like. With a super-gravely baritone and a penchant for mixing Biblical imagery with rotgutsoaked worldliness, Miller paints a world of lately-redeemed sinners and holy-rolling lovers. In fact, Miller's moves sound so much like Waits'at times that it feels like he stole the playbook.
Even if he does lift a few more tricks than strictly necessary, it's hard to hold that fact against Miller. He makes it work. Beyond the stylistic borrowing, he has a keen sense of irony and juxtapostion; "I'll Be Walking Home Today" is a straight-up hymn of salvation, while "Salvation Drive" playfully cross-breeds redemption with urban legends of the helpful unseen outlaw, Inverting tradition. "It All Means Nothing Without You: seems to be another passionate love song addressed to God, and then reveals itself as a penitent song to a lover who dropped the narrator flat. Continuing the gleeful thematic schizophrenia, a good 'n' greasy Gospel quartet backs up Miller on several tracks, to excellent effect. (Who are these guys? The liner notes are silent.) In my favorite bit of Biblical play, "The Gospel According to Paul" recounts advice Miller's father gave him: "Don't act stupid in a public place." Advice for life indeed.
Miller plays a hell of a guitar, too, and the nasty blues licks and Gospel slides accompany his voice so well that I can't imagine what else could have done the job. The instrumentals sound beautifully dirty and well-crafted, without overwhelming the lyrics.
All in all, this album is a strange mentholated aural pleasure that creeps up on you. It's the most accomplished singer-songwriter album I've heard in a long time - DG
"Homeward (Silk City 2019), the debut solo album from Blue Stew guitarist, singer and songwriter Michael Paul Miller, is an exquisite example - perhaps the only example - of hipster gospel blues. On this entirely self-performed set, Miller has crafted a cycle of sometimes overt, often allusive, songs affirming his faith. Particularly interesting is "Salvation Drive," which ties together Elvis Presley, Louis Armh1, escaped slaves, and a savior either buried along Highway 49 or still performing miracles in Tarzana. Beyond gospel, blues and jazz, "Hold Her When She Cries" is a beautiful Tex-Mex flavored country ballad that Dave Alvin might have penned; "Magazines and Cigarettes" shares the sepia tint of "Yesterday When I Was Young." Miller's superb singing ranges from Southern Soul to Tom Waits. An expressive, amazing recording.
Michael P. Miller, singer/songwriter/performer fronts his California based band Blue Stew. While the band has had 3 CDs released, "Homeward" is Michael's first solo CD release. "Homeward" contains 11 songs penned by Michael, and one song "Lonesome Town", penned by Thomas Baker Knight and recorded by the late Ricky Nelson.
With a fine blend of acoustic, electric and slide guitar work, Michael makes a sincere emotional statement with each lyric as well as each note played. From the title cut, "I'll Be Walking Home Today" through the final cut "Homeward Bound", he tells a story of love, joy, sadness and sorrow that pulls right at the heart. This is solo Americana/Gospel blues at it's best, and seems to only grow h1er with each play. Accompanied with a keen wit, a present tense understanding of the roads of life, and with little regret Michael tells his stories of friends, of lovers and of life. His humor is best exemplified by his learning the lessons of life through "The Gospel According To Paul", and the bitterness of relationships through "Holes In The Wall."
Were you to take the rough edged sincerity of Tom Waits, mix the underlying lyrical irony of Lowell George with Ry Cooder's sublime mastery of guitar, you might find the roots of Michael P. Miller's music. Then again, Michael has done more than nourish these roots, he has become a forest in the trees.
I heard Miller's voice, I frowned. His voice is oddly scratchy and pitched in the I have to agree with Andy Allu of Silk City Recording Co. about Michael Paul Miller's Homeward: "In a word ... stunning."
When the first selection began and I heard Miller's voice, I frowned. His voice is oddly scratchy and pitched in the netherrealms between average and high. It sounds like it would be anything but a singer's voice. However, once you hear a few verses, you realize that his voice is perfect for this style and the musical accompaniment he selects. The same voice that first struck me as oddly scratchy became oddly comforting, taking on the quality of a friend sharing his inner feelings.
The longer I listened, the more I felt like I was sharing this man's innermost thoughts and feelings. That's what the blues is supposed to be about -- sharing life's experiences in a one-on-one conversation set to kicking music with guitars that seem to be "crying."
The assortment of guitars -- rhythm, steel, slide and bass -- is fascinating and provides just the exact background for Miller's words. There's no way to select a favorite out of this collection. Every selection has some special quality that makes it stand equal to the others. All are supreme!
I am especially impressed with Miller's ability to vocalize along with the guitar and to sound almost identical to it. This used to be common with blues singers, but I have not heard it much in the last two decades. There has been a move to synthesized music and less human "sound effect." It is refreshing to hear someone doing the old-style entertainment. Each of these dozen songs was written by Miller except "Lonesome Town." Perhaps that explains the personal nature of Miller's performance -- he is doing his own work. As a songwriter, he is fabulously talented. It is difficult to say whether he is more talented as a singer or songwriter.
I could find nothing bad about Homeward except that it ends too soon. Miller is a super-talented individual with so much to offer the world; he deserves much more recognition.
If you like the oldstyle blues, get this CD. You will not be disappointed.
- Rambles / written by Alicia Karen Elkins / published 15 May 2004
First of all if you've never heard of---or don't dig Fred Neil----you won't "get" what the latest CD by Michael Miller has. That being------some of the most heartfelt folkblues tunes filled with angst that I've heard since the early Fred Neil stuff.
The mixed-baggie flavor includes doses of Tom Waits or maybe Dr. John-----------but to this listener------I felt the deep deep tugging of Fred Neil. Tremendously written songs from what i'd call a Folk Blues Troubador Extroadinaire----------Michael Miller. Great, Lowdown gravelly, whisky- soaked vocals!
Bluesy Melancholy-------Moody Broody-------Songs of the Heart--of the Human Spirit------of everyday life. Most of twelve well-written tunes were penned & performed entirely by Michael Miller. The fast lane-------the downtrodden road to despair-------the high road to glory-------it's all here the CD "Homeward".
Michael Miller is a tremendously talented singer, songwriter, troubador! Highly recommended stuff! (if you dig Folk/Blues at it's best) This CD has it!
It's quite easy to catch the comparisons with Tom Waits from Mike's vocals, but what truly impresses me is the fact that every voice and instrument on the recording is Mike and Mike alone! Expressive lyrics and incredible guitar. I also buy the term Gospel-Blues used to describe the CD. One listen to "We Could Walk On Water" and I have visions of The Blind Boys working behind Mike. This is definitely not an album that'll appeal to blues purists, but so what! Great job Mike! This is an amazing release and quite a different venture than I first expected having listened to Blue Stew's past works. "Homeward" has certainly found a home on my player; it hasn't left it since I received my copy in the mail.
MICHAEL PAUL MILLER: Homeward
Having performed with some of the best- Big Joe Turner, Joe Houston, and R&B greats "The Drifters" in a few of his early gigs and having toured extensively throughout the 1970s, this man is obviously fully marinated in the tradition, deliciously crafted by the developing tradition like a fine, full-bodied wine. This acoustic blues collection, with the grabbing, gravelly voice of Tom Waits and his own, merging of ache with hope, covers the gamut from Americana Gospel to Delta. From start to finish, an absolutely, overwhelming delight for the senses. Derick Silvers - CD Baby
The 'preview tracks' hooked me straight away and the rest of the CD is equally as good. The vocals remind me of Tom Waits and I let a friend of mine listen to it and he said it reminded him a little of JJ Cale. I like both those artists and if you do too then you'll definitely enjoy this CD.
homeward is a homerun
great cd, out of the ballpark
life experiences put to music - brought back lots of my life memories
Reviewer: Stephanie G. Wilt
Very happy with the CD and its contents. Easy, yet thought provoking lyrics bring back memories of our own past. Excellent variety of slow/sad, or upbeat, and great guitar playing!
tender visit to sacredness of life-healing, love, faith, acceptance-
The music of homeward bound evoke a tear of understanding because the songs touch tender places in the heart and soul of the listener. The expression of emotion is followed by a sense of relief, understanding and healing. The music remind us of the sacredness of life and energize us to move forward with whatever challenges confront us. My favorite is This World Is Not My Home.
Intensely, moving lyrics sung with the passion of one who's lived them
Reviewer: Sherry Lawson Torres
This cd is drenched in human trials & tribulations. Homeward is an emotional ride of life, love and the persuit of everyones dream...to go home again. Sherry Lawson Torres, Santa Barbara, CA