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Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy
Album: The Miller Girl
Label: Merf
Tracks: 10
Website: http://www.steveandjake.com

A meeting of musical West Virginian minds between singer-songwriter Hussey and 17-year-old bluegrass virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist Eddy, this originally began life as a collection of songs for Hussey's wedding, he writing the lyrics and the pair working together on the arrangements. It quickly became apparent that the collaboration had legs beyond the big day, and thus this album was born, the music journeying the Americana spectrum from the expected bluegrass tunes to ones more in keeping with the early work of James Taylor, the album's conceptual arc moving from a man lost after a break up to finding love again and being delivered to salvation by its transformative power.

While the song may be rooted in dark times looking for the light, opening number "Little Shove" is a sprightly, slightly jazzy affair, shuffling percussion and Eddy's banjo driving things along behind Hussey's sandpapered voice. He even whistles at the end.

The musical framework shifts for "Into The Ether", a chugging rhythm, bluesier roots number about lost love and shattered dreams that more suggests the likes of JJ Cale and perhaps even Dire Straits, but with a decided alt-country feel to the chorus. This gives way to the album's darkest track, "Chalk It Up", a fiddle backed (courtesy of Ben Probus) song about an illicit affair ("I wish I had met you first") as Hussey sings about being lost, unable to find his way home. But within it lie the seeds of love that shape the latter half of the album. But not, however, before the infectious, Guthrie-ish banjo-led self-defensive kiss off that is "Long List Of Goodbyes" wherein he reels off the names of all the women to whom he's bid farewell in an attempt to suggest he doesn't care about this one either, even if he did catch her in the bathroom with his best mate.

The tone shifts again for "Master Your Mind", a swampy blues with prowling vocals with a hint of good old testifying, and once more on the fiddle accompanied, shaker percussion and nimble guitarlele work of the lazy shuffling, tumbling rhythms of "Looking For Love" which one review insightfully likened to Bruce Chanel's Hey Baby". Keeping a late 60s, early 70s feel, the title track itself harks to the acoustic balladry of a Taylor or a Paxton, though is perhaps more indebted to Lefty Frizell and Bobby Bare, and marks the thematic transition point, appositely followed by the dreamily conversational styled "Better Day" and, fiddle again prominent, the waltzing romantic epiphany and marriage themed "I Pick You", finally ending with the dreams come true of the simply titled "Sweet", darkness replaced by day, ghosts departed and home found, the rain falling here lighter, lazier and more welcome than that in the opening track. Featuring strong writing and consummate playing, there's nothing lite about this Miller. Here's to hoping both of Hussey's unions go from strength to strength.

Mike Davies