About Brooke Miller
Prince Edward Island, 140 miles long and 40 miles wide and perched off Canadas eastern coast at the gateway to the St. Lawrence, is an extraordinary place where ordinary people do not necessarily survive, much less thrive. It is a place where people have always had to make their own entertainment; just as they have made their homes, handicrafts, and celebrations utilizing the Celtic and Acadian traditions handed down, from father to son, mother to daughter, from the lands their ancestors were driven from by spirits of famine, politics or adventure. Only in the last decade has it been physically linked to the mainland of Canada. This is a place where imagination is as crucial as a warm fire in the winter. This is where Brooke Miller comes from.
Just as Ontario still whistles through the soul of Neil Young, no matter how long he’s been transplanted to California, Prince Edward Island informs every moment of Brooke Miller’s album, You Can See Everything.
Brooke Millers parents were eclectic artists and musicians and music simply soaked, as Brooke describes it, into my pores, in an environment that literally thrummed with all forms of creative self-expression. I grew up with a lot of kitchen ceilidhs, she says, using the traditional Irish term that also reflects the music and fiddles that predominated, kitchen partiesessentially just lots of food, wine and music that would go til six in the morning playing.
Although she was not necessarily inspired to play traditional music, the musicians themselves provided role models that very early on, influenced the choices and direction of her life. No matter what they did on a side jobsome of these people were counselors, teachers, lawyers, medical doctorsthese were all people who lived and breathed music. So, to me, it was a lifestyle thing and it wasnt just looked at as a job or a thing that you did to make money, it was something that people did to feel goodand alive.
In third grade, Brookes elementary schools music teacher, Gerard Ruttan, gave her an instrument to play and she never put it down. She was soon traveling to competitions around the Maritime provinces and as far as Halifax (a 4 hour drive from PEI) where the band would come away with gold and silver medals, Not until the ripe old age of 10 or 11 did she contemplate writing her own songs. Her parents bought her first electric guitar and for a subsequent Christmas, a drum machine and little 4 track Tascam recorder, on which she would do all the drum, bass, guitar and create these records. I wish I still had them! With two boys, she formed a trio called Bleek that soon owed more to punk, and by 12, was touring the Maritimes, opening for bands like Sloan, Modest Mouse, Mad Hat and Erics Trip.
But a musician of Brookes gifts and range soon outgrew the three chord confines of punk and began exploring more sophisticated and challenging techniques and genresfrom the intricacies of finger-picking to the more colorful palette of jazz. I remember listening to a lot of Bruce Cockburn. As a young person who was already into playing, I just thought this is the coolest thing in the world to hear. I had heard him all my life because my parents were both huge Bruce fans, but I really just started sitting and listening to his music, then people like Leon Redbone, Rickie Lee Jones and the Police. I really started experimenting with what I could do with the guitar, tuning things differently and wanting to get certain sounds and do something that felt really different from what anyone else I knew was doing.
She also began to take her own voice seriously, rather than, in her words, scream my head off. We had a real angsty outlet as a punk band, and that was our way to kind of thrash and get all this energy out of our systems. By now I had kind of simmered down a little bit.
And with the more refined simmering that only a few years and intense devotion to both perfecting serious craft and living meaningful life can bring, we now have You Can See Everything. For starters, there is Country From the Dome Car, which winds into a rocking Ramblin Man jam coda that reflects Brookes discovery of the world beyond PEI from the unique perspective of a distinctly Canadian contraption during a three day music festival called Roots on the Rails that transpired on a train between Toronto and Vancouver. Every time I listen to it I think about the train trip that the song is based upon. The train kind of got under my skin and thats what that song is about, the rhythm of the train, the small environment youre in for a few days, with a whole bunch of people, and all the music you listen to til the wee hours of the night, sitting up in the dome car, watching Northern Lights form and disappear in the sky and watching the mountains go by with oodles of goats and sheep running down the side, towards the train. All the things you dont see in a car or on a plane.
She attributes that to recording in an unusual setting, with great musicians, chief among whom is her fairly recent husband, Don Ross, an award-winning fingerpicker and Narada recording artist highly respected in acoustic music circles for the last two decades. You Can See Everything sounds so intimately directed to him, she might be whispering in his ear. That was the first `I love you kind of song Id ever written, she admits. This song embodied my entire spirits being lifted by this persons love and everyone should be able to experience a love like that in their life and arent we lucky to have something like this. So thats what that song is about. It was absolutely for my husband. I was basically thanking Don for such good true love. Just that feeling that things seem really clear at times if you know that your heart is safe.
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