The long awaited solo debut from singer/fiddler/multi-instrumentalist Sara Milonovich is an explosion of music with as many colors and flavors as the melting pot that is New York - and not just the city, but the countryside too - a kind of “Downtown Upstate” music - rural roots with an urban edge.
Produced by Greg Anderson, and featuring special guests Mike Marshall, Eliza Gilkyson, Lloyd Maines, Viktor Krauss, John Doyle, Richard Shindell, André Brunet, Natalie Haas, Ben Wittman, Denis Frechette, Abbie Gardner, Natalia Zukerman, Gregory Liszt, John Kirk, Scott Petito, Matt Darriau, Buddy Connolly, Leo Traversa, Brian Melick, Nikki Matheson, Mark Dann and Greg Anderson, it’s been described as “acoustic and electric, agnostic and eclectic”, but it’s much more than that, and far trickier to pin down - it’s roots-rock, oldtime-newgrass, worldbeat-jazz with celtic & other european flavors... it’s alt-folk, alt-country, alt-pop, alt-all!
Sara is an award-winning fiddler, singer, and tunesmith who has been performing throughout the US and Europe as a solo artist, bandleader and in various collaborations in the roots, folk-rock, bluegrass, Celtic, and Appalachian music scenes. She has worked with artists such as Pete Seeger (on his 2009 Grammy-winning album, "At 89"), Richard Shindell, Cathie Ryan, Anne Hills, and Leslie Ritter and Scott Petito, among others.
From 1999 - 2002 she toured the US and Ireland as a member of the Celtic/bluegrass/roots band The McKrells. Her tune, Cead Caloigne Sneachta (The First Snowfall), from the McKrell's holiday album Merry Christmas, placed 6th in the 2001 Just Plain Folks Awards for best holiday song. Her fiddle and voice (and flute and whistles) were also featured on their 2002 CD Hit The Ground Running. In June 2001, Sara traveled to Mt. Airy, North Carolina with John Kirk & Trish Miller, where she competed in both the Bluegrass Fiddle and Folk Song contests, placing first and second, respectively. She has performed with various classical ensembles throughout New York State, including the Empire State Youth and Repertory Orchestras, several string quartets, and with members of the Albany, Glens Falls, and Schenectady Symphonies. In 1998 she released the CD Mrs. Ippy Fiddle, under the name Sara Miles (as her last name was often mispronounced), which was a nominated semifinalist for the 1999 Grammy awards.
CD REVIEW- CHRONOGRAM MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 22, 2009, by Robert Burke Warren
On Daisycutter, her impressive solo debut, roots music veteran Sara Milonovich hits the ground running with the up-tempo, fiddle-fueled "Country Life," a powerhouse lament that takes on class, the plight of family farms, countryside gentrification, and the UK foot and mouth epidemic of 2001. Sound intense? It is, but as a bracing opener, it serves well, priming listeners for a deft mix of literate folk, plaintive Celtic-tinged balladry, and plenty of modern-day ass-kicking. Milonovich is a fiddler of much renown—with additional chops in the vocals and guitar department—and a life spent mostly on the road has yielded the skills to take on a wide range of material and a bevy of extremely talented friends. The high-profile pals adding to the bounty of Daisycutter include singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson, who executes a gorgeous solo on her own beautiful ache of a love song, "Last Dance."
Even without the star turns, however, Milonovich emerges as both a gifted artist in her own right and an unpredictable song interpreter. The Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday" becomes a zydeco raveup; KT Tunstall's wry but sweet “Under the Weather” is a deceptively simple ballad with tasty political overtones. The unexpected Peter Gabriel tune, "Here Comes the Flood," offers a nice slab of electric guitar while evincing Milonovich's penchant for the post-apocalyptic. But any lingering darkness is quickly dispersed by a rollicking take on "The Lake Arthur Stomp." These scene changes offer a chance to process the considerable depth of the material and most importantly, to dance.
CD REVIEW- DAILY FREEMAN, JULY 10, 2009, by David Malachowski
New York-based Sara Milonovich has carved out quite a niche for herself with her violin, playing with Pete Seeger, Richard Shindell, Anne Hills and Leslie Ritter and Scott Petito (this cd was recorded at Petito’s NRS studios).
Produced by Greg Anderson, Milonovich certainly keeps good company with musicians like Viktor Krauss, Abbie Gardner, Eliza Gilkyson, Lloyd Maines, Natalie Hass, and the aforementioned Petitio, all chiming in.
“Country Life” is a compelling Celtic-bluegrass cross that sets the tone here (with a nice banjo solo from Crooked Still’s Gregory Liszt). “Under The Weather” is what Nashville would sound like if it was a just bit smarter. “Fiona’s Breakdown” is the requisite fiddle reel here, where Milonovich shows her formidable chops over a clever self-penned tune.
“Northern Cross” is a haunting tale of “I’ve gone running from the devil/sometimes I’ve beaten down his path.” A curious cover of King/Goffin’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (yes, the song the Monkees sang) is a high point, proving once again the power of a good arrangement and vocal delivery.
Often a side-person, Milonovich moves to centerstage with ease.
CD REVIEW- ROLL MAGAZINE, JULY 2009, by Crispin Kott
Sara Milonovich’s debut album, Daisycutter, comes with a confidence not ordinarily found in a new performer. Part of that is due to the singer/multi-instrumentalist’s pedigree, which saw her pick up a violin at the age of four and never put it down.
Milonovich has a soothing vocal delivery, as well as a fiddle style evocative of Irish music, which is a natural given her three-year stint with the McKrells that took her through the Emerald Isle on tours. But there’s more bubbling under the surface than meets the eye, even on a collection comprised of more covers than original songs.
While the rest of the album is good, it’s perhaps Milonovich’s take on “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by the Monkees that speaks to what the album is as a whole; a feel-good, all-inclusive vibe almost guaranteed to bring a smile to one’s face.
CD REVIEW- NIPPERTOWN, SEPTEMBER 10, 2009, by Gregory Haymes
Fab fiddler Sara Milonovich rosins up her bow for her latest solo album and proves that there’s a lot more to her considerable musical talents than initially meets the ear.
Yes, of course, she’s a marvelous fiddler, as anyone knows who has seen and heard her play with such Nippertown favorites as the McKrells or John Kirk & Trish Miller and Quickstep. She’s also been in big demand as a session player recently, lending her fiddle talents to albums by Richard Shindell, Antje Duvekot, Jen Clapp, Anne Hills and Cathie Ryan.
And, of yeah, she also played on Pete Seeger’s latest Grammy Award-winning album, “At 89.”
On this album, Milonovich dazzles with some fine, fleet-fingered fiddling on instrumental gems like “Fiona’s Breakdown,” “No Sweat Helene,” “The First Snowfall” and “The Lake Arthur Stomp.” And she matches her instrumental talents with some sparkling contributions from an A-list of guest musicians including Viktor Krauss, Mike Marshall, Lloyd Maines, Natalie Haas, John Doyle and others.
But Milonovich stretches way beyond the usual round of traditional fiddle tunes on this album, and her vocals are in the spotlight as much as her fiddle. An excellent vocalist, she gets to the heart of the matter on songs like the opening “Country Life” (about the plight of the modern day farmer) and the heartbreaking waltz “Insanity Street.”
It may not be surprising to find her dipping into Eliza Gilkyson’s songbag for the beautiful ballad “Last Dance,” but you probably wouldn’t expect her to find her raiding the catalogs of Peter Gabriel, K.T. Tunstall and even the Monkees. (It’s an accordion-fueled romp through Carole King’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” in case you’re wondering.)
But no matter what she’s tackling, she does it up right here.
CD REVIEW (of pre-release 7 track "Daisycutter EP" : Wildy's World- Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Sara Milonovich - Daisycutter EP
I first became aware of Sara Milonovich during her stint as violinist for The McKrells, a Celtic/bluegrass band from Saratoga Springs, NY, who were well-known on the Celtic music circuit and were legends locally. Milonovich always managed to exude an energetic and sweet stage presence while ripping it up on the violin. I never really got to hear her sing anything other than background vocals however. In the summer of 2008 Sara released an EP as a preview for an upcoming full-length album. The EP is called Daisycutter. It proves her status as an incredible celtic/country violin player but also introduces Milonovich as a capable vocalist and front-woman.
Country Life opens the set as a banjo driven, celtic influenced country/rock tune. This tune was my first introduction to Milonovich as a lead vocalist and I have to say it's impressive. She has a rich, full sound that is pleasant to listen to but also carries an edge that can as easily be cutting or vulnerable, in turn. Fiona's Breakdown and The Lake Arthur Stomp allow Milonovich to show off her fiddle skills in amicable fashion. When Sara Milonovich is on her game she’s in the same league as Natalie MacMaster on violin.
Last Dance is a gorgeous country ballad that will have you on the edge of your seat. Willie Taylor is an interesting turn. This celtic tune mixes a dark violin bridge that sounds middle-eastern and also draws in jazz-style woodwinds. It’s a stunning musical choice and works very well after the initial adjustment (of the listener). Northern Cross comes across as extremely personal; nearly confessional in Milonvich’s rich alto. The most poignant and moving event on Daisycutter is the cover of Peter Gabriel’s Here Comes The Flood. Sara Milonovich was born to sing this song, or so it would seem. Her rendition encompasses all of the loss and loneliness the song implies and is overpowering in its emotional weight. I should add that I sat and listened to this in the wake of the September 2008 fiscal crisis, so the song had an added poignancy.
Sara Milonovich is the sort of musician we love here at Wildy’s World. Here is an incredibly talented independent artist plying her trade in a small market in the Northeast. The music and talent she brings to the world around her are more than worthy of the larger stages of Nashville, New York and LA (and all the stages/clubs between here and there). Milonovich is the sort of artist record execs should be lining up to sign (and she’s far from the only one we’ve reviewed here thus far). Daisycutter is an amazing debut, and means we will anxiously anticipate the forthcoming full-length release. There’s no doubt, Daisycutter is a Certified Wildy's World Desert Island Disc.
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)