Sting's guitarist wanted to make this solo acoustic guitar album sound “clean, clear and pure.” He has succeeded. It is consistently light, melodic and enjoyable.
Time: 13 tracks / 41 mins
Miller has regularly been Sting’s guitarist, but has also worked with other top artists like Paul Simon, Phil Collins, Katie Melhua and Rick Wright, as well as Talk Talk’s more boundary-pushing Mark Hollis. Regular readers may also be interested to note that he played with Jason Carter on his Fragments of Grace album.
After initially considering a quartet with piano or a trio with cello, Miller has made this an (almost) solo acoustic album, which he wanted to make sound “clean, clear and pure.” He has succeeded. His strings chime brightly.
The title of opening track “What You Didn’t Say” gives a clue as to the feel of the disc, with its swathes of space around some ringing notes – the gaps being as important as the music played in creating a sense of openness.
Putting a little colour inside those gaps is good friend Miles Bould, who adds percussion on four tracks; mainly occasional interspersions that stand out because the guitar work is as clean and spacious as Miller hoped. At one point, if you have your back door open, it can be as if a distant neighbour is banging some saucepans. But he generally adds a consistently metallic edge to the sound, the odd whirr and click, subtle shakers or some whispering cymbals.
The pair combine to add the album's only overdubs when they form a conventional rhythm section for “Chaos Theory,” a track that shows Miller’s more purposeful side. “Urban Waltz” and the suitably fluid “Water” are other pieces that manage to be both airy and focused at the same time.
Once you’ve read Miller’s liner notes and heard of his influences (from French chanson to the Grateful Dead via Stevie Wonder and Weather Report – and particularly J. S. Bach) you can hear some of them in his playing. The Latin edge to “Baden” is one. There are French and Celtic touches, too, if subtle.
Being Sting’s guitarist, there is a very welcome account of “Fields of Gold.”
While acoustic guitar instrumentals can tend to include the odd irritating loud bit or awkward runs that spoil the atmosphere, this minimalist disc, peppered with subtle international flavours, is consistently light, melodic and enjoyable.