Harm Among the Willows
Jane's is a voice that captures the timeless ache that seeps up through the dirt and hills of her native Kentucky and evokes the spook and hope and wonder and joy of the forests and the moon.
Born of her Eastern Kentucky roots and filtered through the sidewalks of Chicago, the solo debut by Jane Baxter Miller haunts and uplifts as it laments the heart broken and celebrates the heart released. Harm Among The Willows is an album of journeys and longings, both musical and emotional.
Jane Baxter Miller first made waves in the Chicago scene in the mid 1990’s with her folk/country duo Texas Rubies. They released one album, Working Girl Blues, and contributed a track, “That Truck,” to the inaugural Bloodshot compilation For A Life Of Sin. As a solo artist, she's contributed tracks to the compilations The Bottle Let Me Down, Poor Little Knitter on the Road and Hard Headed Woman, and sung on albums by Jon Langford, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts and Sally Timms.
The songs are all originals written by Jane (except "Hang My Head, written by Kent Kessler…..), and they could be understandably mistaken for nuggets culled from the rich tapestry of America’s roots canon. From the swampy Bobbie Gentry sass of “Swimming Up” to the smooth Bakersfield swing--all sawdust dance floors and sweaty longnecks--of “Good Mornin’ Moon,” to the Uptown jazz club at closing time vibe of “He’s So Happy” Jane and her crack band of confederates show an adeptness at slinking in and out and around genres, of finding the truest path for the songs. While “He’s On A Train” and “River Of Ghosts” have the pain of the ages in them, “Leaving You All Over” is the kind of classic upbeat honky-tonk shuffle that could have been plucked right out of the glove box of Webb Pierce’s car parked outside Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on Nashville’s Lower Broad. And the sparse title track would not be out of place next to a baptismal river in Appalachia or in the shadow of a cairn on the Salisbury plain.
Backing Jane and her acoustic guitar on Harm Among The Willows is a collection of locals that remind us why we’re lucky to live in Chicago. Gerald Dowd has drummed with the Robbie Fulks band, behind Nora O’Connor and in the Flat Five; guitarist Grant Tye spent years on the road with Robbie Fulks; bassist (and Jane’s husband) Kent Kessler records and tours the world with Vandermark 5, Peter Brotzman Tentet, DKV Trio and is a pioneer in the Chicago free jazz scene ; and the preposterously talented Scott Ligon (Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Flat Five and every other band that plays at the Hideout) kicks in some organ and piano work.
But bringing it all together, providing the beating heart at the center of the album is Jane’s voice. Hers is a voice that captures the timeless ache that seeps up through the dirt and hills of her native Kentucky and evokes the spook and hope and wonder and joy of the forests and the moon. It’s a voice that can’t be taught and a voice that can’t be kept down, no matter how long she has made Chicago her home.