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Biscuit Miller – Blues With A Smile

Blue Bass 2010

12 tracks, 52.44 minutes.

Dave “Biscuit” Miller is a bass player and singer originally from Chicago, now living in Indianapolis. He spent ten years with Lonnie Brooks and also worked with Anthony Gomes before setting out on his own. I believe that this is his second solo CD and this one is all his own work as he wrote all the tunes and produced the album.

Biscuit’s touring band is called The Mix and there is a real mix of material here. I had expected a lot of funk and there is some here, but the CD is far more varied than that label might suggest. Biscuit has also drawn on friends from the blues world to assist, so we have performances from a wide variety of guests, including Billy Branch on harp, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Shawn Kellerman on guitar and Andrew “Blaze” Thomas on drums. The regular ‘Mix’ is Biscuit’s cousin Ivan Daddy I Wallace on guitar, Bobby Wilson, also on guitar, Deryl Coutts on keyboards and Dr Love on drums.

The CD opens with “Belly Up Some Blues” which features Billy Branch who introduces the tune on harp. An insistent riff underpins the song, with Biscuit telling us how he is ready for a night out with the blues before Shawn Kellerman lays down a dramatic guitar solo with plenty of wah-wah pedal. The toe-tapping tune is an excellent opener to the album and is followed by another good one in “Sleeping In The Dog House”, a variant on the old story of the guy whose girl has locked him out because he is having a fling with someone else. A real foot stomper with strong piano and an excellent high tempo guitar solo by Ivan Daddy I Wallace.

“Butter My Biscuits” is more what one might expect from an artist usually described as ‘funky’. This one even has a credit to a “Funk Box” played by the amazingly named One Tooth Johnson! There are two guitarists here but I am unsure who plays the exuberant solo. “Walk With You Babe” is an uptempo shuffle featuring Shawn Kellerman’s guitar on a song that is no more than the sort of love song that we all know and love, yet it appeals on all fronts, vocal, piano, drums and guitar all excel.

Then it’s back to the funk with “Black Eyed Peas And Cornbread”. The song essentially celebrates southern cooking whilst making passing reference to a host of well known suspects in the blues world – Highway 49, Mississippi, Big Legged Women, etc. Proof positive that Biscuit has a fine voice is ably demonstrated on the ballad “Blow A Kiss” where the gentle accompaniment gives centre stage to his voice and a lovely plucked acoustic guitar solo enhances the quality of the track – a contender for my favourite cut on the CD. At the other extreme “Boneheads” opens with a guitar riff that is almost heavy metal! This track has the lot, a guitar solo by RBB, a wild sax solo (Jay Moynihan), a bass solo by additional bassist Joseph Veloz and a rap by Supa Dave.

“Willie D” is a bluesier tune with Shawn Kellerman back in harness alongside Bobby Wilson on rhythm guitar, a song which recalls ex-boxer Willie in affectionate terms. “Never Seen It Coming” is probably the closest the band gets to doing a slow blues on the album, a classic tale of the breakdown of a relationship, even down to the inevitable ‘back door man’! “Call Him Doctor Love” might be a tribute to the band’s drummer, but if it is he is apparently the producer of a love potion called No 69!. It’s an uptempo tune with great piano and another fine guitar solo.

“Summer Time Blues” is another ballad graced by some nice sax playing by Jay Moynihan, a love song despite the title. The album closer is “Sing For The People” where Biscuit hands over bass duties to Joseph Veloz and concentrates on the vocals in front of a choir consisting of no less than eight vocalists which generates a real gospel feel to the song. Special mention must go to guest drummer Andrew Blaze Thomas and pianist Deryl Coutts as they propel the tune along. Biscuit takes us all to church on this one, even quoting The Lord’s Prayer towards the end. Shawn Kellerman also seems to feel the hot gospel moment as he solos passionately over the choir as the tune comes to an end.

Funk is not one of my personal tastes, but this CD delivers a lot more than just that dimension, with soul, blues, gospel and rock all to the fore. I suspect that we will all hear a lot more about Biscuit Miller And The Mix as this CD gets deservedly heard by a wide audience.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He recently attended the Blues Blast Awards in Chicago and had a great time! Back in the USA for the January 2011 Blues Cruise!

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