Born in Houston (in Renfrewshire, Scotland, not the Texas upstart!) is the guitarist who has graced the studio and stage (including the genuine Woodstock in 1969) with Keef Hartley, plus numerous others – Savoy Brown, T. Rex, Hemlock, Ian Hunter and with Jon Lord on both his classical and blues releases to name but a few. I am, of course, talking about the guitar/vocalist who brings such warmth, passion and skill into all that he touches… the inimitable Miller Anderson who should be recognised and revered for the outstanding talent that he is.
I first came across him late through the Jon Lord classical work, Pictured Within and then saw him perform at the 1999 Anniversary of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with Jon and the rest of Deep Purple. So moving and skillful was his performance that I sought out all of his work from Keef onward. His solo stuff is remarkable for its variations in genres and his approach to them; with so many to chose from, I plumped for his simply brilliant 2003 Bluesheart album as it embodies all his skills vocally as well as his stunning guitar playing.
Opening with ‘High Tide and High Water’ we’re immediately treated to a lesson in guitar playing as the exquisite strumming and picking introduce an exceptional and truly original blues/rock song. He goes on to put some superb slide guitar into the first solo and then picking and wah in the second to turn me green with envy with his instinctive and sensitive touch. ‘Fallin’ Back Into the Blue’ and ‘Little Man Dancing’ are both quality blues. ‘Sending Me Angels’ is a ballad that will melt the heart as well as the fretboard fingers. ‘Help Me’ and ‘Runnin’ Blues’ benefit from the bonus of Jon Lord’s appearance and his warm and genius fills make both that little bit more special.
‘House of the Rising Sun’ may be well known and over covered but Miller makes it into the epic it has always wanted to be… he uses the melodies brilliantly throughout and the guitar intro and soloing is beyond genius. There are umpteen versions of ‘Smokestack Lightnin’/Wang Dang Doodle’ out there and it takes something special to make yet another standout – Miller achieves just that with this clever amalgamation.
‘Houston (Scotland)’ is a tribute to his hometown and with (and because of) a hint of commercialism, is the weakest song on the album; but it’s measured against the rest and is a fine song, just slightly less impactful on first listen.
‘Vigilante Man/Crossroads’ combines two classics seamlessly: ‘Vigilante’ is a superb song (although the Woodie Guthrie original is a challenge to listen to) and I never thought that the Nazareth version could be topped… well, actually it hasn’t but this is every bit as good and puts a slightly different complexion on it by dint of Miller’s emotional vocal and guitar. He even puts a new gloss on ‘Crossroads’ in a way you wouldn’t think possible on this much-covered Robert Johnson beauty.
This is an album filled with skill and so many deft touches both instrumentally and in interpretation that if you like blues and/or blues-rock, or if you love a guitar played immaculately, then you simply must add this to your collection. If you do nothing else, then listen to the ‘Vigilante/Crossroads’ track – if it doesn’t convince, then Specsavers do hearing tests too! It is now available as a ‘double pack’ with the follow-up album Chameleon included too – a win, win, win for all.