Jewels Dance Hall
Before his twangy solo album, Sonny Miller spent the early ’90s providing string work for two local acts, the Janglers and Al’s Fast Freight. Recorded at Wheelhouse Studio in Beachwood, his debut is straight old-school rock ’n’ roll. Usually a weakness, the distant and fuzzy production quality of each track works for the collection, giving it that Southern dive-bar feeling, especially in “Cinadarina’s Blues” and “Down the Well.” Jewels Dance Hall is a combination of country, blues and gospel, and except for the poorly recorded “We Fall Down,” the beginnings of Miller’s songs sound like the start of a Tim McGraw ballad. But once you’re in, you’re witness to a sincere effort of songwriting and veteran instrumentals. Even though his vocals are sometimes rough and the production is a little shaky, Jewels Dance Hall sounds like a classic.
Pete Mihalek - Free Times
The songs on Jewels came out of a collaboration with Will Douglas on drums. We had toured and recorded together with the Janglers in the late 80's and early 90's. We played in about 18 different states and even made to the sacred "Star Search" program. We lost, but we carried on.
We got these songs on tape without, in some cases, having the words done. Usually I would play bass or guitar direct into the board and we would just go. Will's drumming on this is a joy to listen to. He instinctively knew what to play, without hearing any words. A true professional.
The songs come out of personal experience and observation. And when in doubt "borrow" and re-work a good/great idea into your own.
I tried to cover a lot of different genres (country, blues, folk, instrumental, gospel, rock) on this album. Sometimes this can work for you, and sometimes not. I like variety, I think most people do as well. Are there any hits on this album? What is a hit these days? I try to write honest, memorable songs. I think Carl Perkins said it best when he said "There's no gettin' away from a good song." Doesn't matter what genre.
Thanks for stopping by hope you like the samples. If you pick up a copy of Jewels, you have made my day and I greatly appreciate it :)
Some notes about Jewels Dance Hall:
Train: key D. I used drop D for both rhytm and lead parts. Great drumming by Will
Goodbye Carolina: key A. On the acoustic rhythm part used drop D, but w/ capo on the 2nd fret. This makes very full sound. Solo on the Ash Tele, standard tuning
Cindarina's Blues: key E. Used the quasi open E (raised g to g#) on both rhytm and lead parts. Fun progression. After the E chord, it moves to a f#min7 sus 4. Sounds harder than it is. Just move middle finger to 2nd fret 6th string. Keep ring finger on 2nd fret 4th string and put index on 1st fret 3d string. For the next chord just move the whole mess up a whole step (2 frets). Then it goes back down 2 frets and then back to regular E chord. You can move that shape around to differnt frets and get some very nice effects because the top 2 open strings are droning against the freted notes. The unsung chorus is just this shape moved to the 5th fret then desends down to 2nd fret.
Athena: key A. Fun progression on chorus: A-E-A-G/B-A/C#-D-A/C#-f#min-E-D-A. Doubled tracked the solo at the end. More great drumming by Will. I see a trend here. (He really knocked it out, right on the money. Keep in mind the rhythm tracks were cut by Will and I (and a click track). He did not have much to work with. No demos to listen to. Just the bass line or guitar chords. No lyrics, nada, nothing, zip. But his playing fits every song beatifully.
Sonny's Boogie: key D. Used drop D for both rhythm and lead parts. Also drop the E on the bass to D to enrich the sub-sonic frequencys.
Down the Well: key A. Standard tunings. Some easy does it organ.
Running Late: key D. Drop D for lead and rhythm parts. Also bass dropped to D. More easy organ fills. Note the "borrowing" of Pacabell's Cannon in D on the Bridge. I will have to send somebody in his family a royalty check :)
Jackson County Line: key A. Standard tuning on rhythm. Quasi-open e on lead. Fun song. Jackson will be on a Oasis compelation sampler in a few months. This sampler goes to many DJ's. Hopefully somebody likes it and puts it on the air. I have a demo of this song done on a old 4-track recorder. Just acoustic piano and acoustic guitar. I will try to upload to show the transformation of the song.
We Fall Down: key F#. This was cut live with the St. Paul's Choir durring a service. Came out great. I overdubbed the steel and slide guitar afterwards. I will be putting up some more of those recordings. I played bass in the choir for around 2 years. (2000-2002). Was a great musical and spiritual expericance.
Danko's Blues: Key A. This has the rhythm tunning as Goodby Carolina (drop D capo on 2nd fret). The bass has the E dropped to D. The steel harmonics were very fun, but challenging as well. Also, a tribute to one of my favorite singers, Rick Danko of the Band.
Honolulu Blues: key D. Drop D tunning. The keyboard has some splits that allow you to layer sounds together. I used a synth bass/organ on the low end and organ/synth strings on top end.
I played bass and guitar with the Janglers from November of 1987 to June of 1992.
The Janglers traveled the country and released two CD's.
The lead singer, Jason White, went on to Nashville to write songs for country artists.
Most notably he wrote "Red Rag Top" for Tim McGraw.
After the Janglers I went on to form Al's Fast Freight with Howard Micenmacher in 1993.
Al's Fast Freight has played in the Cleveland area and released two CD's as well. Also playing with Cedar Creek Band (check out www.cedarcreekbandonline.com as well as www.geocities.com/alsfastfreight)
Bob Dylan, Otis Redding,James Brown,The Band,
Led Zeppelin,Gram Parsons,The Byrds,Buddy Emmons,
Any good songwriter,Elvis Presley,The Meters,Miles Davis,
Bob Marley,The Rolling Stones,The Beatles,The Allman Brothers band,
Muddy Waters,Chuck Berry,Howlin Wolf,
and any Gospel/Blues artist from the 1920-1944 era.