East Side Slim
Joseph "UJ" Miller – Down Home Remedy
artist self-release, 2009
Down Home Remedy is the 2nd CD to be released by Belleville, IL/St. Louis, MO musician Joseph “UJ” Miller, following after the release of his 1st CD, Back Alley Blues and Beyond. UJ is from musical family, as his grandfather used to perform throughout the region of St. Louis into southern Illinois. In addition, UJ’s father and brother both play guitar and piano. UJ himself has been singing from the age of 4 or 5, and has participated in talent shows and has been a member of a number of bands that never developed. It would be fair to classify UJ as a roots music artist who has a love of the blues, with the blues forming the bedrock of the majority of the songs on Down Home Remedy. UJ’s influences are varied, ranging from earlier influences such as Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and B.B. King to later influences such as Gatemouth Brown and Michael Burks; not a poor musical choice among them. UJ seems to greatly enjoy being part of the St. Louis music community (family!) and from what I’ve heard on the CD that same community should be proud to count UJ as a member.
(Thank you to stlblues.net for much of the above information – see the Joseph “UJ” Miller interview on stlblues.net for more information about UJ.)
1. Down Home Remedy
--This track leads off the CD in fine fashion, and is the "sound" that UJ could really run with. The tune is played in a sparse band format, kind of back porch thing, with lots of space among the instruments, and with UJ's warm voice working the lyrics. Also, St. Louis guitar queen Melissa Neels provided very tasty unobtrusive lead guitar lines as a guest artist throughout the song.
2. Irene, Goodnight
--UJ has another winner on his hands here. It's a rootsy, folksy take on this old standard, but on this cut UJ sings and strums acoustic guitar while Melissa Neels provide more of her tasty lead guitar work.
3. Personal Blues
--UJ tries his hand at a straight acoustic blues number here. It's UJ singing, Hitman Hendricks on slide guitar, and Tim Berg on harmonica. While it's not a bad track at all, it's not quite as strong as the 1st two numbers on the CD.
4. Steppin' Out Tonight
--This is a simple back-porcher about hanging out with some pals in the evening time, just enjoying each others' company (as well as an adult beverage or two) as a way to shake off a melancholy mood (I couldn't bear to place the word "blues" there!)
5. Wish I Was A Chicken Hawk
--This is UJ's take on the old “flying like a chicken hawk” theme. It's a lot more laid back than most occurrences of these songs, as most of them rev it up and swing like crazy. This is actually a nice change of pace, nice and down-homey, with only voice, acoustic guitar and acoustic harp. Tim Berg's harmonica work on this is right on.
6. Baby, Baby Don't Do That Anymore
--This one is a fairly standard 3-piece acoustic blues number, consisting of acoustic guitar chording, slide guitar and vocals.
7. 40-64 Blues
--This song is the tale of UJ's own blues set upon him by the closure of St. Louis' Highway 40 (Interstate 64) for 2 years due to reconstruction of a 12-mile long segment of the highway through the heart of the metro area. Unfortunately, now that the highway has reopened the lyrics sound a little dated. Melissa Neels is on hand again, though, playing lead guitar on an acoustic model – she should try more of this because it sounds great!
8. Rough Groove
--Good move, UJ, as this tune is a complete change of pace as compared to the previous songs. I've like everything up to now, but a bit of "sameness" was creeping in due to the similar instrumentation and style of those songs. This is something completely different; it's an instrumental piece, by no means a blues, but with a very nice rootsy vibe. I think I would have titled the tune Cool Groove rather than Rough Groove, as the song isn't rough, but it is indeed very cool!
9. Poor Boy Blues
--Now this track does sound more like a rough groove. It's UJ on acoustic guitar and Tim Berg on slide, performing an ominous sounding duo blues. I like this track very much, as UJ's warm but weary voice fits the song well.
10. I'm Coming Home
--Here is another song that falls outside the typical pattern found on the CD. It's a melancholy tune with martial drums and a haunting organ added. I would have like to have heard organ used on a few more tracks on the CD; it sounds great here. Anyway, this has a vaguely "House of the Rising Sun" feel to it. That one is haunting and melancholic as well.
11. Down Home Remedy – acoustic version
--We have a 2nd version of the CD's title track here. This one takes us back "down home", and it sounds fine. It's got a nice groove working, but the groove has that sound that just begs for the song to start off sparse and then continue to build in intensity throughout its length. At the end of the 1st verse and chorus I was expecting the song to ratchet-up a notch in intensity, and then continue this pattern throughout. Think about trying that arrangement with this tune sometime, UJ; please? It should also be noted that Melissa Neels appears once again on acoustic lead guitar!
12. An Angel To Me
--The last tune on the CD, UJ performs it completely solo, singing and playing along on acoustic guitar. He plays very well here, so I'm not sure why he didn't provide more of his own lead work throughout the other 11 songs on the CD. It could be possible that UJ isn't completely comfortable playing leads for blues songs yet. He is a young man, and becoming a good blues lead guitarist (acoustic or electric) can take time as it is a deceptively difficult task to master. This song is in a singer-songwriter vein, which suits UJ's voice and abilities very well; he just seems extremely comfortable in this style.
Joseph "UJ" Miller has a nice little release on his hands with "Down Home Remedy". The album has an enjoyable, warm feel to it, and it sounds as if the musicians had a fun time making this disc. Most of the songs are of a down home, back porch variety, with a couple decidedly non-back porch tunes (more singer-songwriter, Americana, Pop in style) thrown in to shake things up a little bit. UJ does an admirable job on the vocals, and the presence of Melissa Neels on lead guitar for several songs was a wise decision as she sounds great in this setting. All-in-all, this CD is a commendable effort from UJ and friends. Let's rate this bad boy: STLBluesometer rating of 3.50 for UJ Miller's Down Home Remedy. One thing East Side Slim can tell you is that he took some of that remedy and he’s feeling better already.
For more information and song samples for UJ Miller, please visit the following Website: http://www.myspace.com/josephujmiller
- aka "East