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Jeff Miller releases first “homecooked” album Ancient Wisdom

Best known for his guitarwork in the bands New Monsoon and The Contribution, Jeff Miller is releasing his first solo album.

“Ancient Wisdom is the first project I’ve done where I have written, recorded, and engineered all the music myself” says Miller. “I produced it at home in my small cottage, deep in the Northern California forest, with bare-bones recording equipment and a cheap mic. By doing it at home like this I definitely captured a unique vibe unlike any “studio” recording I’ve done. The environs of the woods crept into the songs for sure.”

Instead of going into an expensive studio, with tight timelines and budget constraints, Miller decided to do it himself this time. “I’ve always written in the band context and gone into a studio to record. When you’re working with other people, you work a certain way. When you are all alone at home, your inner Jack Torrance (The Shining) comes out. Spending all day trying to get just one good take can make you go insane!”

”Miller goes on to say “I was going for a more acoustic, stripped-down approach compared to my other projects. I used whatever I could find for percussion: a big ceramic dumbek, shakers, tambourine… I even dusted off my old Roland Guitar Synth to created an entire drum kit on one tune. I couldn’t believe it worked!”

Miller played and recorded every instrument on Ancient Wisdom, including bass guitar, mandolin, and organ (done with Guitar Synth.) “Some of my favorite artists are do-it-yourselfers: Jeff Buckley, Beck, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel… there’s a very distinct quality that comes out in an artist’s solo work. I wanted to let this quality come out in my work too. I’m glad I didn’t rush the process. I think I found a unique sound here.”

“Intimate and expansive, the solo debut of New Monsoon’s Jeff Miller is both highly personal and a deeply felt song cycle with universal appeal, a step ahead in the ground broken by the likes of Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges.” -Dennis Cook, Jambase, Relix

“Play every instrument and do all the vocals on a recording, and chances are the resultant music will be a bit too insular. Not so with the solo debut from New Monsoon guitarist Jeff Miller. Miller, who plays and sings almost everything on the CD, has created mostly laid back, sometimes pastoral music that breathes, its cross-cutting guitars, mandolins and basses supporting elegant story songs. The loping ballad “She is Everywhere” is one of several tracks, including “Desolation Summit,” that might remind some of early, folksy Pink Floyd. A couple guests do sneak into the mix — Railroad Earth fiddle player Tim Carbone on the impressionistic “Journey to the Ganges” and singer Danielle Levy on the rambling “Our Arms.” These acoustic-electric textures are heady and appealing.” -Philip Booth, Relix

“Ancient Wisdom” is the first solo album by the West Marin guitarist best known for his work with the jam band New Monsoon. Miller recorded the CD’s 10 original songs in his home studio with, in his words, “bare-bones recording equipment and a cheap mike.” But there’s nothing cheap-sounding about this highly personal song cycle, recorded over an 18-month period, expansive enough to embrace the conception and birth of his son, Skyler, to whom he dedicated the album, and the deaths of three of his friends.”

“Miller wanted the ambience of the San Geronimo Valley woods to creep into this music and it does so to pleasing effect with the sound of rain and thunder as the introduction to the opening song, the ethereal instrumental “Andaman Dream.” He sings in a smooth, relaxed, unaffected style and, inspired by do-it-yourself recording projects by Jeff Buckley, Beck, Neil Young and others, played and recorded most of the instruments on this primarily acoustic effort, including bass, guitars and mandolin. A guitar synthesizer simulated a drum kit on one track, and he grabbed whatever he could find for percussion, including shakers, tambourine and a big ceramic doumbek.”

“Miller got some help from Danielle Levy, who adds harmony vocals to the serene love ballad “Our Arms.” And Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, a Miller bandmate in the Contribution, weaved Indian-influenced violin threads through the exotic instrumental “Journey to the Ganges.” Like so many master Marin guitarists, Miller has been influenced by the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, and his electric guitar on the tune “Desolation Summit” references Garcia and the Southern rock of the Allman Brothers. On the leisurely rocker “Walk on the Water,” Miller sings, “Lord help those who help themselves today.” He certainly helped his musical cause with “Ancient Wisdom,” an album that is not only inspired, but spiritual as well.” -Paul Liberatore, Marin IJ