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Trent Miller - Trent Miller

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 23 / 6 / 2012

Trent Miller - Trent Miller


Malcolm Carter looks at the career of Italian-born, but now London-based alternative rocker Trent Miller, who has now released two albums, 'Cerberus' and 'Welcome to Inferno Valley'

Born in Italy but based in London for a few years now, Trent Miller released his debut, the stark, stripped back ‘Cerberus’ way back in 2009. Thanks to the return of the Bucketfull Of Brains label and the success and glowing reviews of Miller’s second album ‘Welcome to Inferno Valley’ in August 2011, not to mention his live shows, ‘Cerberus’ now gets a second lease of life. Listening to the albums back-to-back the most obvious difference is the fact that while ‘Cerberus’ was a solo album in every sense, some of the songs were recorded in Miller’s bedroom on an eight-track Tascam, his later album, ‘Welcome to Inferno Valley’, is very much a band album. ‘Cerberus’, strangely for all its stripped-backed starkness, doesn’t actually sound like a man alone. Tracks like ‘Coyote’ are, without a doubt, heavily indebted to artists like Townes Van Zandt and even Guy Clark at times, but even when it’s just Miller’s vocals and acoustic there is still a fullness to his sound that you wouldn’t expect. For all the comparisons he’s collected along the way, all of which are valid, one name has been missing and it’s that of early Neil Young. Given the subject matter of ‘Bones of Milk’, which is Miller’s ‘Needle And The Damage Done’, it’s surprising that Miller hasn’t been compared to Young. Vocally Miller is a lot more accessible than Young will ever be but lyrically, even on these early songs featured on ‘Cerberus’, Miller shows a lot of Young’s imagery. But there is darkness displayed throughout the songs on ‘Cerberus’, and Miller’s voice, although a little raspy at times, is far from that of say Tom Waits. It is fuelled by too many cigarettes and is whiskey-soaked for sure, but that just makes his dark tales come to life. Miller is believable, and songs as stark and desolate as these need a voice like Miller’s to make them breathe. Miller is one of those artists who can take you to places you know you really shouldn’t go to but just have to follow. ‘Cerberus’ is a fine collection of songs which will appeal to not only fans of Gene Clark and the aforementioned Townes and Guy Clark, but also to Dylan and Young devotees. While he’s cut no new ground here, it’s a fine way to be introduced to his work and anyone with the slightest interest in country/folk should really check this album out. ‘Calvary Mountains’ is one of the standout songs on ‘Cerberus’, and owes as much to the work of Johnny Cash as to any of Miller’s other influences. That song would have surely worked its way to Rick Rubin for Cash to cover if the great man was still with us. In fact it’s no big push of the imagination to hear Cash singing the closing two songs on ‘Cerberus’; ‘Hellbound Train’ and ‘Six Feet Under’ show that Miller is a writer of some substance. Miller’s record label says the songs on ‘Welcome to Inferno Valley’ have been “road-tested and honed at dozens of gigs”, and it shows. The full-band treatment suits Miller’s songs and, although some ears will always prefer the stripped-back approach of his earlier album, the band adds a lot of texture and dimension to his songs. Obviously Miller’s vocals were more prominent on his solo recordings, but they are thankfully not swamped by the extra instrumentation on ‘Welcome to Inferno Valley’. Incorporating, among other instruments, banjo and violin really fleshes out Miller’s sound, and on certain tracks like ‘Nowhere Road’ it feels like the songs were made to be performed with a band and not solo. The backing vocals, especially on this song, by Jason Collins and Emily C. Smith compliment Miller’s drawl perfectly, and a weeping violin also makes this song a highlight of the album. While the songs could still be classed as mournful, the instrumentation and backing vocals add shades of light, and Miller should be praised for taking such a step and not just releasing another album of solo tracks. ‘Ballad of the Gospel Oak’ is awash with violin and banjo and would work well with just acoustic guitar and Miller’s lived-in vocals, but by sharing vocals with Emily C. Smith he shows that he is prepared to take risks, and on this occasion it has worked so well. It’s a gem of a song and played and produced perfectly. If you get to hear just one Miller song, make it ‘Ballad of the Gospel Oak’ and then be prepared to fork out for the album. While little nods to his influences/heroes can be heard throughout the album, ‘Sunday Morning Goin’ Down’, with its slight change of title, reminds you that Kris Kristofferson is floating around there somewhere too. But for all the references and influences Trent Miller has his own distinctive voice, and as a songwriter only on his second album it’s going to be fascinating to hear where he goes next. There is little to choose from these two albums. One is stripped-backed and solo and the other a full band performance. Miller has the songs and the talent to cover both with ease. He is an artist to look out for.

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Trent Miller - Trent Miller

Trent Miller - Trent Miller

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