the music of Amy Millan

Recollection Series:
Amy Millan at the Middle East

by Nikhil Gupta

Amy Millan's new album is Masters of the Burial

A Night That Made Us Fans - Looking back, this was one to remember... Touring in support of her second solo LP, Masters of the Burial, Amy Millan arrived at the Middle East to perform a night of bluesy folk and alt-country music. Amy normally comes to the area with her Montreal-based band, Stars, sharing vocals in their power pop songs. The band that crowded the stage this night, however, brought its own distinct flavor: a banjo and mandolin were substituted for electric guitars, and a slide-guitar and stand-up bass filled in for the synths and percussion that have become Stars' signiture sound. The whiskey-toned twang of this crew--highlighted by Dan Whiteley on mandolin and guitar and Doug Tielli on banjo and trombone--fit the cold autumn night perfectly. Sad and haunting, the music Upstairs settled slowly into the crowd's bones like ice melting on the tongue.

MUSIC WITH FEELING - Despite the heartbreaking stories that comprise most of her songs, Millan and her band were all smiles and good humor from the get-go, encouraging the crowd to interrupt them with whistles and cat-calls whenever the mood should strike. While much of the music on her two solo LP's is quiet and sparsely accompanied, the live versions of these songs felt fuller and backed with heavier instrumentation. Frequent solos and longer riffs by Whiteley and Tielli gave the set a sparkling and spontaneous feel, and everyone in the crowd yelped and hollered like they were at an old-time revival. None of this, thankfully, overpowered Millan's signature whisper-soft voice, which can convince you that the bitterest drink is going to go down sweet.

NOV 4, 2009 - The night's setlist pulled together songs equally from Masters of the Burial and Millan's earlier album, Honey from the Tombs. Standards like "Skinny Boy," "Losing You," and "He Brings out the Whiskey in Me" fit perfectly with new standout songs like "Low Sail," "Towers," and her cover of Death Cab's "I Will Follow You into the Dark." The highlight of the night came when Amy was accompanied solely by an electric guitar on "Run for Me." As was clear from that song, her music is all about what you feel at night, in the dark, under the covers, by yourself, and how little it takes to fill or empty that space.

Amy Millan
Web / Myspace


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