Joseph Alton Miller – Songs Of Travel For The Vagabond
For the past decade and a half, singer-songwriter Joseph Alton Miller has been telling his life story on stage with audiences all over the Northeast. Recently, Joseph has shared stages with acts like Robert Randolph, Ellis Paul, Stephen Kellogg, Living Colour, and even ’90s hip-hop sensation, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. His commitment to music and live performance have earned him nominations and awards in multiple categories at highly respected awards ceremonies throughout his newly found home state of New Jersey.
Originally from the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY, Joseph immersed himself in the folk music genre, studying the styles of Woody Guthrie, The Carter Family, Tony Rice, and Doc Watson with his late musical mentor, Dr. Douglas Crowder. His new album, Songs Of Travel For The Vagabond, is a collection of songs that were inspired by his time with Dr. Crowder and the places that Joseph has traveled to around the country. The album is currently available on all popular digital music platforms (iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, etc.) from Joseph’s own Worn Out Joke Records label.
Miller is an original artist who sent me his music after expressing interest in appearing in TheAquarian. I was curious as to what he had to offer and wasn’t disappointed with his latest effort. Miller’s sound is decidedly ’50s and ’60s folk with his original additions to that style of music. He even throws in a couple of well-placed covers that do the original artist proud when it comes to his artistic attack of their songs.
So let’s take a detailed look at Joseph Alton Miller and see what we come up with.
The first song on the disc is a Ryan Adams cover called “Winding Wheel.” Miller is joined on acoustic guitar by local favorite Francis Lombardi. The two players mix easy guitar parts with the toned and full-bodied flavor of Miller’s vocal. Miller and Lombardi dance in their six-string symphony of sound with a breezy and laid-back delivery in the style of Adams without looking like said artist. Miller’s melodic sensibility carries this opener without a hitch.
“American Crow” is up next. Featuring Asbury Park’s own Sandy Mack, “American Crow” simmers and bubbles under the expert ministrations of Miller and Mack. Bass work comes courtesy of Andy Lalasis, who adds clean and open bottom end to Miller’s acoustic guitar flourishes. Ominous and filled with lyrical imagery, this is a song that soars on its own. Sending out messages of freedom and lone wolf poetry, “American Crow” flies into an excellent stratosphere of an original sound.
The next song on the disc is Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi.” Arranged by Miller for his needs, “Do Re Mi” winds into Miller’s compositional viewfinder of influential goodness. Like the original, Miller’s version covers all the bases but also adds his own level of fan adoration and musical interpretation. Once again Sandy Mack comes in to add his trademarked harp to the piece and helping to create a pleasurable and no nonsense overall vibe for the song.
Next up is “Procrastination.” Once again fired by the duo of Miller and Lombardi, “Procrastination” flows like a leaf in a springtime stream. Miller’s down home vocals would fit into Nashville or Upstate New York with a considerable ease as he breezes through his melodic verse. Guitars dance and intertwine with chimey chord swatches, and single note runs that remind me of David Crosby and Graham Nash. Lyrical approach ushers forth pictures of the American landscape as Miller makes his way toward the one he’s looking for.
“The Continuation Of D.B. Cooper” comes into the speakers next. Miller takes no prisoners when it comes to understanding the art of melodic composition and “The Continuation of D.B. Cooper” is a perfect example of that understanding. Intimate and full, the song is aided by violinist Adam Serlin. Serlin’s smooth style and ease of delivery are the perfect accompaniment to Miller’s passionate vocal. Acoustic guitar by Miller is steady and agreeable as well. This is a great song and one of my favorites on the disc.
“Dude, Where’s My Whiskey” is up next and is co-written with Tyrone Green. It also features the vocal assist of Kuf Knotz. Knotz is known for his unique blend of progressive hip-hop, soul, blues, jazz and rock; Knotz is one of Philly’s fastest emerging alternative artists. No musical territory goes unexplored when it comes to Kuf, and it is this attitude that has led him to perform with top acts like Ben Folds, Common, Dr.Dog, Old DB, New York Dolls, Steel Pulse, Amos Lee & The Roots. Along with Knotz we also have Lombardi and Andy Lalasis back on guitar and bass along with Miller. “Dude, Where’s My Whiskey” bounces along its own rickety path of folk-inspired goodness before Knotz takes the middle-eight to do his rhythmic thing. Miller’s harmonica work is also a noted highpoint and adds yet another element to this intricate composition. I love the fact that this entire record was done with a minimum of instrumentation instead of filling every space with the standard presentation.
“Ballad Of A Beauty Maker” closes things out in a great way. Featuring the trumpet work of Sean D’Antoni, “Ballad Of A Beauty Maker” is another well-written tune that delivers plenty of bang for the buck. Andy Lalasis is also back to add his distinctive element to this sparse but gorgeous sounding song. Miller’s guitar work is both melodic and insightful, blending softly strummed chords with brief interludes of fingerpicking and single line riffs throughout. D’Antoni’s trumpet work is seamless and executed flawlessly. His sound adds the perfect element to this high-caliber piece.
Miller is a talented writer and makes up in quality where he falls short with quantity. Actually, with the attention span of today’s audiences, maybe the adage “less is more” is the best new norm. Whatever the case, Joseph Alton Miller has scored extremely well with Songs Of Travel For The Vagabond. His style is all his own and his choice of players and arrangements, and composition is irreproachable. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
For more information on Joseph Alton Miller and Songs Of Travel For The Vagabond, head over to josephaltonmiller.com to get the information. And if you want to see him live, he’ll be over at the brand new Asbury Hotel over at 5th Avenue on Saturday, July 16.
Asbury Park Surf Music Festival – Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 – 12 p.m. – Rain Or Shine – The Anchor’s Bend & Grand Arcade At Convention Hall
I know this is an early announcement but as the event gets closer I’m sure we’ll have more to talk about. The Asbury Park Surf Music Festival has found its new beachfront home for 2016 at The Anchor’s Bend & Grand Arcade at Convention Hall. Festival organizers husband & wife team, Vincent Minervino and Magdalena O’Connell, are inspired by the great surf music events from around the world. Their goal is to bring friends and families together each summer for a day of reverb-soaked surf music, refreshing tiki drinks, shimmering classic cars, and brilliant local artisans, all with the beautiful Asbury Park Beach in the background.
The East’s Coast’s #1 Surf Music Event features live instrumental surf music. APSMF 2016 showcases the best surfing groups in the Northeast, with a headlining performance from Messer Chups (St. Petersburg, Russia).
Curated by the festival organizers, the APSMF drink menu features the best in classic and modern tropical libations! There will also be a classic car show. Calling all woodies! Attendees can request free VIP parking via the festival website. The market in the Grand Arcade will also offer a collection of locally handmade goods, curated in partnership with the Asbury Park Bazaar.
Below is the full music lineup as of right now:
Messer Chups (St. Petersburg, Russia)
The Nebulas (Providence, RI)
Black Flamingos (Asbury Park, NJ)
Atomic Mosquitos (Arlington, VA)
The Primitive Finks (Philadelphia, PA)
Slowey & The Boats (Philadelphia, PA)
The Sharkskins (Philadelphia, PA)
Blue Wave Theory (Cherry Hills, NJ)
The Tarantinos NYC (Astoria, NY)
The Televisionaries (Rochester, NY)
Bongo Surf (Jersey City, NJ)
For information, tickets & contact go to apsurfmusicfest.com.