If the characters in the Old 97’s albums like to party than the characters in a Rhett Miller record wake up to regret it. The line “there’s happiness and then there’s this, whatever it’s supposed to be” from “Jules” is pretty indicative of the confessional rides being taken. Apologies, regret, forgiveness and the need for redemption play out to a background of foot stomping and sorrowful alt-country/Americana. Of course, it helps that the music is being provided by the alt-country genius of Black Prairie, who have been setting that genre ablaze for a few years now.
Rather strange it seems is the instant dynamic that falls into place between Miller and his new cohorts. After all, Black Prairie is four members of The Decemberists and a couple musical friends who are exploring a different musical style rather than people who live fulltime making music in Nashville. They do it so well you forget they are in another band at all.
Soft acoustic guitar, a light violin and an accordion permeate over a ghostly atmospheric vocal as played out on “Dream vs. Waking Life” underscoring the hearts desolation at a relationships end. Then later you get the playful banter of a piano carrying a storyteller until the violin starts to do the call and answer thing on “Reasons To Live.” In every case the music is central in creating an atmosphere for Miller’s various levels of turmoil.
The Traveller may not be a concept album in the traditional sense but it runs the gambit of emotional expressions felt when a relationship implodes by reason of human fallacy. No one quite describes self-wreckage the way Miller does, and Black Prairie makes it sound that much more poignant.
The Traveller is available at all the finer music stores and you can pick it up on vinyl here.