Miller time

The Low Anthem's fragile wonder
By BOB GULLA  |  March 14, 2007
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Local boy Ben Miller started in Providence a few years back as a solo artist. His first record, released in 2004, was an endearing, home-rendered acoustic jobber, which led to an EP, Falling, in 2005, credited to Ben Miller & the Low Anthem. Recorded at Lakewest with Jack Gauthier, the five-song platter was the band’s first true studio work; it laid a solid groundwork of folk and roots vibes beneath some credible classical flourishes. Miller arranged the material for acoustic/electric guitar, voice, violin, cello, and piano.
 
Since releasing that material, the Low Anthem has been tramping all over the Northeast, shooting their gospel blues and moonlit back porch ballads into open-eared crowds from Portland to New York City. On the band’s latest work, released at the end of last year, Miller made the full transition from solo act to full group. Now calling itself simply the Low Anthem, with an album of the same name, Miller, with Daniel Lefkowitz, Jeffrey Prystowsky, cellist James Schlessinger, and guitarist Chris Meatto, has sculpted a fragile wonder of a record. There are delicate melodies plucked and bowed, pretty performances that quiver as they come around, like just-born pups seeking warmth. Reminiscent of the Pernice Brothers (or, further back, the Scud Mountain Boys) with a dash of Nick Drake, the Low Anthem wends its way through a subtle ebb and flow of energy, meting a little out at a time on songs such as the gorgeous “Burl¬ing¬ton,” which opens mournfully but then lets the light in when Miller begins to sing. It shimmers like Drake on “Pink Moon,” and benefits from the cello that forms a featherbed beneath it. Current coordinates might include bands such as Iron and Wine, a college-aged Ryan Adams without the punk affectation, or Ray LaMontagne, only easy on the lugubriousness. “Running Weary” is smart and bright with some nice arpeggios and gentle keyboards. The disc closes with “Southbound Train,” a terrific rendition and perfect in the way it makes these boys sound like world-weary, shopworn men. In fact, that’s one of the glorious things about the Low Anthem: they don’t have much wear on their treads, but they sound like they’ve been traveling the country in an endless loop, a trip that’s exposed them to the many wonders of the world at large. And it sure sounds good the way they tell it.

The Low Anthem + Andrew Fox And The Emergency + Amity Front | March 16 | AS220, 115 Empire St, Providence | 401.831.9327

Taverns on the green
St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday, and you know what that means: a lot more drunken leprechauns pretending to be Irish than usual. Let’s hope these Gaelic wannabes aren’t wearin’ their own green by the end of the night, if ya know what I mean. Fortunately, there’s a lot going on around town Saturday night to keep everyone busy. THE GNOMES’ gig makes sense for those with or without a brogue. It’s at the Mediator, 50 Rounds Avenue, Providence, at 7:30 pm. Kids get in free and Irish dancing will be taught. Call 401.461.3683. I wonder aloud if Dan Lilley’s cooking anything special up for his LOVETRAIN gig at the Ruffstone Tavern in North Providence. Call 401.353.2970. Is there a kinship between the punk chanteys of SHARKS COME CRUISIN’ and Irish drinking songs? You decide! SCC row ashore Saturday to the port of the Penalty Box on North Main Street in Providence, with friends BARN BURNING and STEVE GOLLNICK. Call 401.331.8545. And check out the “What would you do with a drunken sailor?” contest is posted at sharkscomecruisin.com.

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