You may not know Rhett Miller by name, but he’s been making music for the past twenty three years. It’s possible that you know his face, it’s beautiful… I really like looking at it (and his hair is amazing, what kind of shampoo does he use?!). If his name still doesn’t ring a bell, it’s possibly because he’s kept a somewhat low profile for a rock star. He doesn’t throw himself into the media’s face with drama, multiple marriages lasting twenty minutes or making a mess due to drug or alcohol addictions. He’s just a regular guy, playing sweet-as-molasses music and making a decent living. Sounds pretty perfect to me.
Still don’t know who he is? Maybe his lead vocals for the quintet The Old 97′s will ring a few bells. The band traipses through Seattle about once a year and pull in a huge crowd every time. They’ve got a fun, light-hearted live show that’s been known to make even the most standoffish of fans cut a rug, shake a booty or wiggle about the floor with smiles plastered on their faces.
Rhett may be best known for his full band performances, but I was introduced to the man in a small (300 occupancy at most) venue down in Portland last year during MusicFest Northwest. He stepped onto a tiny stage looking humble and accessible: loosely-tied boots, a guitar, a huge grin on his face and a mixed drink in his hand. I had been a moderate Old 97′s fan prior to seeing him, but hadn’t sought out their music. I arrived at the show that night because a few friends made it very clear that I was doing my life wrong if I didn’t go see Miller ASAP. It was late in the evening, smack dab in the middle of the festival’s span, and I was exhausted. Little did I know I was gonna be slapped in the face with musical magic. Rhett Miller’s smile is infectious, his music rips your heart out and he puts every part of himself into the show.
Miller just released his third solo album, The Dreamer, after a 10-year stint focusing on the 97′s. It leans more toward the slower, western style, a sound which tended to take a back-seat to the The Old 97′s faster country-rock feel. The new album has an ever-present slide guitar and easy-going tempos that pull you along lazily, happily through stories of love and sorrow. It’s more like walking down a dusty road on a summer day, lemonade in hand, than dancing till you drop. It’s a great album that’s meant to wrap around your heart a little more with every repeated listen, rather than grabbing you immediately, but those are the records that tend to stay in your playlist longest.
Catch Rhett (and, according to his site, a backing band dubbed “The Serial Lady Killers”) at the Crocodile on Friday night with The Spring Standards. You’ll be dazzled by this show, you can bet your boots on it.