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Miller and The Other Sinners breaks the blues’ rules


David Miller's blues is about letting go and being let go. He was always active in music, leading bands in high school and playing in church, but it was never his main focus. Then, four years back, he was fired.

"In 2013," Miller says, "when the company I worked for was bought out and my entire team dismissed, I decided then instead of continuing on that career path, I'd first try to finish a solo album that I had started and see where that went."

He had been in bands like Buffalo's Dive House Union, which released two live albums with most of the material written by Miller. But it wasn't entirely his vision. Miller was in the midst of recording his own album when he got a serendipitous introduction.

"I got introduced to the Campbell Brothers via my co-producer, Jesse Miller — no relation," he says. "And there was instant chemistry as the album evolved. I had no intention of releasing the album nationally; I just figured I'd book occasional band shows to play the songs, but mainly support it with solo acoustic shows."

However, due to encouragement by the Campbell Brothers — and chiefly Carlton Campbell — Miller decided to go for it and see what happened. The album, "Poisons Sipped," ended up charting internationally on the Roots Music Report and landed on its Top 25 Blues-Rock Albums of 2014 list.

"During the process, I decided to really follow the river and see where it goes," Miller says. "I started touring and putting together shows with members of the Campbell Brothers, along with players that had helped on that record, namely Jason Moynihan, who toured with Buddy Guy for nine years as his sax player."

This lineup led to a second album, "Same Soil," and ultimately the formation of Miller and The Other Sinners. Miller has been touring a four-piece version of that project over the last year and a half, with Moynihan on sax and guitar, Donta Myles on bass, and Deshawn "D Ray" Jackson on drums.

Miller and The Other Sinners' take on music is rather uplifting: a somewhat spiritual tack within the parameters of the blues. But it's not faith-based. Miller let go of that, too.

"To me, the blues is about being real and telling the story as it is regardless how messy," he says. "I don't see much of a difference with that and Bible stories; however, I don't claim to be a person of faith anymore. My personal journey has taken me away from pre-packaged ideologies and doctrines to a more internal perspective."

The blues means the truth, according to Miller. "It's telling your story in a simple way, an understandable and relatable way, but above all, an honest way. The blues is more than the form of music to me and more about its primal-ness."

It's this primal-ness that Miller harnesses admirably. That is to say, he doesn't abuse it or overuse it. When dealing with slide guitar, there're plenty of opportunities to get gonzo; to plug in and skid up the elevator to the 12th fret. The savage report often allows for notes not necessarily meant for the chord. Whereas an instrument like the pedal steel — which has absolutely colored Miller's sound — is punchy and more accurate with the notes honed sharp by the silence that surrounds them.

"That is mostly due to the influence of the Campbell Brothers and gospel music," Miller says. "However, I have to give props to Derek Trucks, too. Listening to these guys along with gospel singers are really the source of my inspiration for slide."

This is where Miller is coming from. His attack and tone is mean, lean, and clean. However, the man doesn't mind getting his boots dirty when gutbucket chops are called for.

"My style is synthesizing styles," he says. "I love finding the connections between styles in songs and performances."

The connection could very well be his voice: a powerful baritone with just a hint of gospel growl and grit. And both his voice and guitar playing are true blues. His compositions, on the other hand, are not. Miller bucks the tradition; he breaks the blues' rules. His is a progression, a couple of steps beyond the eight-bar and 12-bar world.

"When I first started writing blues music specifically," Miller says. "I worked inside of what I perceived as the 'form.' However, if you do a deep dive into blues you'll find that the form has continued to evolve — even within the 1950's-1960's popularity in blues. The 1970's added more 'rock' to the blues, and on it evolved. My take on the blues evolved quickly, too, as my other influences found connections."

Miller and The Other Sinners have been hitting the pavement hard, bringing the blues to you. From fall 2015 to fall 2016, Miller says, the band did more than 70,000 miles, 17 states, and roughly 240 shows.

In the next little bit, Miller and The Other Sinners will be working to beef up its regional fan base. A live album, "3 Nights at the Strand – Live," comes out March 30, and the band will begin working on its first studio record this spring.

"We will continue to keep connecting with people who love real, honest, passionate music," Miller says.