Americana, bluegrass, and country duo Steve Hussey and Jake Eddy have set a late November 2016 release date for their project titled The Miller Girl. The 10 tracks were written by Hussey with arrangements by both him and Eddy. While Hussey took care of the acoustic guitar, the guitarlele, and the ukulele, Eddy played the acoustic guitar, the banjo, the mandolin, the ukelele, the guitarlele, the upright bass, and the dobro.
The Miller Girl is meant to be a concept album, according to Hussey, telling the story of a man who is lost and is delivered through the power of love. With this in mind, one isn’t surprised that the first four songs are sad or have a sad side to them.
“Into the Ether” and “Chalk It Up” both remain in rock territory. The former is an intense midtempo number with a toe-tapping, drum-led beat that sets a steady, unrelenting pace. It balances a superficial sense of cheer with dark lyrics that reflect anything but. As for “Chalk It Up,” it doesn’t try to hide any sadness, even making good use of a violin to add a good dose of melancholy.
An upbeat folk music style helps give a certain emotional depth to “Little Shove” and “Long List of Goodbyes”; while both these numbers sound cheerful, paying attention to the lyrics will pretty quickly make you perceive the dark current underneath it all. Built on guitar, ukulele, drums, and percussive instruments, that contrast makes for a thought-provoking listen. One might think of the expectation set on all of us to wear a smile even when we are deeply unhappy.
The next few songs are introspective, probably meant to be marking the turning point we can get to, sometimes after years of struggle, when we tell ourselves that enough is enough and start looking for true joy. “Master Your Mind” is intense and serious, the lyrics heavy and dense, but the folk flavour given to this rock track makes it an overall uplifting one despite the hard vocals. “Looking for Love” is even more hopeful, with serious but gentler vocals, violins giving it an almost delicate edge much like the first shimmers of a rainbow do for a serious storm. It speaks of the work that needs be done to heal from sadness and how one must be proactive to get to it.
As for the last few tracks, they reflect not a boisterous happiness but a more profound, mature, and even scar-ridden sort of joy, be it the gentle and sweet love story that is “The Miller Girl” or the comforting “Sweet”. While the songs on The Miller Girl can be listened to in any order, following the artists’ lead and going through the set as intended does give listeners the opportunity to reflect on how they are working on bringing about joy in their own lives.