Deena Miller

A Thousand Words

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On page 12 of the lyric booklet is a photo of Deena Miller with her dad, record producer Jimmy Miller, and a song written for him, "Come Through My Voice," which is beautiful, as is every track on her long-awaited debut, A Thousand Words. Deena is responsible for bringing the Fine Malibus to the attention of her famous dad, who produced demos for Island Records of that band, which featured guitarist Steve Stevens. Although she has recorded her own material over the years, listeners have former A&M A&R man Hernando Courtright and his wife, former Epic A&R Doreen Reilly Courtright to thank for releasing this excellent collection on their Fore Reel imprint. It is not hyperbole to say that this is quite simply an amazing record from start to finish. The Robert Gordon/Deena Miller co-write "A Million Voices" is the first track on a CD entitled A Thousand Words, and it sounds very much like the updated Jefferson Starship, a folky anthem that would fit well on the Starship's Deep Space/Virgin Sky disc. "Broken Angel" segues nicely; its hook and smart middle eight play like a modern day Joni Mitchell. Deena controls the lyrics with her powerful and pretty voice, but it is the production work that is really impressive. Her dad was signed to Colgems/CBS at 19 years of age as a vocalist before he went on to produce George Clinton, Traffic, and the Rolling Stones. That his daughter has created such an incredible set of sounds on her own says something about carrying the tradition forward. "Sin," with its poppy folk guitars and determined chorus, is a hit. It has elements of k.d. lang's "Constant Craving," but takes off on its own tangent, the backing vocals supplementing the hopeless motivation of the lyric. "I Like" is an updated "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, and it is one of the few songs where the singer talks about herself. A psychologist might have a field day with the dad references; the eerie "Bloodline" states plainly, "Maybe my father was a Lord/Then royal blood would flow through me." It does, and this song has musical passages that are clever. Deena draws from many different pop elements, and each of these songs sets moods. With close to an hour's worth of music, it is a debut that would have fit on four sides of vinyl. "You Pulled the Trigger" continues the descent; jazz flavors the finality of it all. There are great lyrics anyone in a broken love affair can relate to: "You turned like an enemy/You took the best of me." The 16-page lyric book with beautiful photos is essential to the project, to get the full impact of her thoughts. "The Unwelcome" is downright frightening -- "one gender shy," the girl is not the "blessed son" -- and being unwelcome she tells her father to burn the cradle. This is a dense and complex recording, but it is stunningly beautiful in its complexity. Deena Miller has the voice, the charm, the expression, and the heritage. She tells her ancestors to "come through my voice," and this Miller production is, indeed, a great vehicle for them to do that with.

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