Sheri Miller’s six-song EP Waking up to This Miracle Life arrives after a multiyear hiatus in which the singer-songwriter recalibrated her approach to music. “I realized I had to get out of my own way,” she explained. “I had to become a vehicle for the art, rather than trying to control it.”
Many artists see their creative process this way. And if Miller feels she was literally channeling Joan of Arc when she “received” the lyrics to the title track, who are we to deny it when the results are this good?
But first, the bluesy rocker “Gold Hearted Man” starts things off in a classic rock vibe, with vocals and a melodic sense that call to mind Joan Osborne or Heart. The song pulses with sensuous power – “I once was a desert, now I’m the Nile.”
Then comes that catchy title track, which sounds like it could have been a Taylor Swift song by way of, well, Joan of Arc. But with Miller’s full-throated delivery, it hits the sweet spot between earworm pop hooks and ballsy vocals. “I scream to the heavens I’m alive, I’m alive.” No doubt about it.
The sound switches to shimmery folk-pop in “Born to Love,” which builds into an anthemic tribute to the power of love. “Joyful Love” has a delectable melody and the drama of a Broadway ballad.
“Everybody Feels This Way Sometimes” is one of the more incisive evocations of depression I’ve heard in recent popular song, and probably the most catchy. Closing things out (not counting several radio edits), Miller explores the same subject in greater depth in the moving and faintly psychedelic “Empty Sky,” with its intriguing melodies and pained lyrics, her liquid-mercury vocals betraying a dark knowingness.
Throughout the set there’s a retro vibe that makes the production sound timeless. That’s partly thanks to the rich arrangements and Jeff Bova’s sharp production, and partly to Miller’s strong, artistically measured vocals. It doesn’t hurt to have A-list musicians like bassist Will Lee and guitarist Tim Pierce on the session backing up the singer. In addition to writing the music and lyrics, Miller contributes piano and acoustic guitar.
Overall Waking up to This Miracle Life is an unusual and satisfying fusion of blues-tinged purpose and pop-music spirit from Sheri Miller, happily back on the scene. Hear the tracks at her website.