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Frankie Miller: Long Way Home

Doug Collette By

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Frankie Miller's fame, such as it is, derives from his 1978 hit "Darlin', combined with songwriting credits for artists as diverse as Bob Seger and Bonnie Tyler. The fancy digipak enclosing Long Way Home illustrates the duality of the music inside, as well as Miller's relative distinction: his hoarse voice is his most profound means of communication.

The front cover graphic outline of the Scotsman in a familiar bowler hat is in stark ghostly contrast to the inset 1977 stage photo of a vibrant young soul man at the top of his game. Frankie Miller was stricken by a brain hemorrhage over fifteen years ago, shortly after most of these tracks were recorded. There is an undeniably sad irony in hearing him sing of personal reinvention in "Guilty of the Crime," especially if you are a long-time fan of the artist. Joe Walsh plays a perfectly drunken slide guitar on that tune, plus all the guitars on "He'll Have to Go, where engineer Bill Szymczyk also lends the production talents the Eagles utilized so extensively.

Will Jennings, Miller's regular songwriting partner, plays and produces on Long Way Home too. And, as on "Over the Line, the vocalist demonstrates how he meets the greatest challenge of the interpretive artist: to unify a variety of songs and styles through the strength of his own personality and performance. Miller's gifts as a singer are such that he can bring a ring of truth to otherwise stock imagery, as with the gambling motif of "Win Lose or Draw. He always sounds like he's singing as hard as he can, whether on mid-tempo tunes like this or the markedly more subdued acoustic country waltz "Lovin's Too Easy.

Interestingly, Miller alone composed one of the most distinctive songs in this collection. "Lies Tell the Best Truth of All has a distinctly Dylanesque surrealism in its words, the comic edge of which is suggested by the inclusion of banjo and—what else?—harmonica. Few of the musicians credited here are famous names, but they acquit themselves admirably by playing in service of the song and the singer himself. Miller renders the lyrics on that cut as effectively as the pure sentimentalism of "You're the Star, combining the ragged sound of his gravelly voice with a sure delivery.

These eleven tracks, which the artist helped compile himself, are all to a greater or lesser degree laced with the positivism that keynotes "You Always Saw the Blue Skies, and Long Way Home is a testament to the living, breathing quality of music at its most inspirational. While on the one had it's a tragedy that we may never see Miller perform the wrenching confessional that is "The Rose, we must consider ourselves blessed to have this collection of songs to savor. It might be selfish to want more of the same, but that hope for something more is simply a reflection of the very foundation of Frankie Miller's personal and artistic ethos.


Track Listing: Guilty of the Crime; Win Lose or Draw; You Always Saw the Blue Skies; Lovin

Personnel: Frankie Miller: lead and backing vocals, acoustic guiitar; Will Jennings: guitar; Joe Walsh: guitars and backing vocals; Nicky Hopkins: keyboard; Ian Wallace:drums; Chrissie Stewart: bass; Ian McCutcheon: drums; David Naughton: bass guitar; backing vocals; harmonica, tambourine, shaker; Scott Raison: 12-string guitar; Nick Zala: pedal steel, banjo; Lynne Jackaman: backing vocals; Elliot Mortimer: Hammond organ; Jamie Morrison: drums.

Title: Long Way Home | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Jerkin' Crocus

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