Derek Miller Owns the Blues on 'Blues, Vol. 1'

Janet Marie Rogers
10/1/13

Derek Miller likes fast cars, fast tunes and who knows what else. For his fourth disc in a strong line-up of award winners -- Music is the Medicine (2002), The Dirty Looks (2006), Double Trouble (2010) -- Derek Miller released Blues, Vol. 1 this year, which won Best Blues Album at the Eighth Annual Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards in Winnipeg.  Derek takes a break from songwriting on this album to pay homage to the blues greats, and some of his favorite musicians overall. He has hand-picked legendary tracks to cover such as "Boom, Boom, Boom" by John Lee Hooker and "Hidden Charms" by Howlin' Wolf and recorded by Willie Dixon. Miller joins a rich list of others who have recorded the latter, including Can-Con icon Colin James, Elvis Costello and Derek’s muse and musical inspiration Link Wray and the Raymen.

Have no fear, blues purists. Miller does nothing to these classic tracks that you will not like. Rather than regurgitate a song that’s been learned and rehearsed, Miller owns his renditions. We hear it and feel it as the album progresses. There is nothing inauthentic here. Derek is simply taking the inherent blood and blues breath inside him to record, for the record, a set of great blues songs for a new generation.  According to Derek, the blues came to Six Nations through the adoption of the Tuscarora Nation when they brought the slave-based call and response work songs to the Haudenosaunee . Other Six Nations musicians credit the Ongweoweh people themselves having influence over "black-based" blues, stating the traditional shuffle beat in our social dance songs is the root of the blues rhythm.

Regardless, there is no argument that Six Nations blues musicians encompass the very spirit of blues music, and that Derek Miller creates fresh blues from its origins. Miller never dilutes or hyphenates his music, and this move has proven to be the recipe that makes the girls skirts shake and invites the shiest of gentlemen to join the dance floor. Sadly, Miller hasn’t yet worked these new takes on the old classics into his live sets yet, and when asked if we can expect a Blues, Vol. 2 anytime soon, he replied “We’re not sure yet”.  Thankfully in the meantime, Blues, Vol. 1 is available from Gunner Recordings and through his website derekmiller.ca. Thank you for this record Derek.

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