Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Obviously there is a curiosity factor at work here: 63-year old Erica Miller is the woman Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits/Dimmer) calls "Mum" and so the album comes with acquired cachet in some circles.
The question is however: would anybody care if neither of those things came into play?
Probably not -- but here's the unexpected thing. They should.
Miller may not have the strongest of voices in some places (she's no Wanda Jackson, but nor does she try to be), but this album has a kind of dark intensity which takes it a long way from a karaoke bar or just another vanity project.
On material like Love Me (which sounds like it is being sung in a deserted cabaret as someone clears away glasses and ashtrays) Miller brings a deep and weary understanding to the song. And if she wobbles a little on Stand By Me (not Ben E King's classic but Elvis' adaptation of a traditional song) and Love Me Tender, they actually sound the more convincing for her emotional input. The same applies to the slow Love Letters . . . and she really nails It Hurts Me.
With musical assistance from Carter and some seasoned Dunedin musicians, and produced by Dale Cotton (Die Die Die, Dimmer, Bachelorette), this often has nerve-jangling intensity (Big Boss Man) -- and the slightly distant sound of the band adds an almost eerie dimension. That Miller avoids the more obvious Elvis songs is also intelligent.
Not everything works -- the uptempo A Mess of Blues for example lacks the character of the melancholy, reflective ballads (which dominate).
But listening to the slower numbers (like the terrific Don't) you feel you are eavesdropping on a private session in an empty club when Miller has had a quiet drink after the show, and pulled the band back to really dig deep into a set list which might have been served up in a perfunctory manner earlier in the night.
This is Miller wanting to get the songs and emotions right for her own sake. And for the most part, she does.