One Track Mind: Hannah Miller, "All My Love" (2010)

Share this:
Photograph by Caleb Chancey

by Nick DeRiso

Hannah Miller sings in a raw, emotionally available register that occasionally goes so high it’s almost outside of her control. That lends a heartrending urgency to songs like “All My Love,” released in August as part of a four-song EP called Journey to the Moon.

With her partner away, Miller briefly considers a night on the town, but then decides to forgo the bustle and noise for hearth and home: “Not tonight,” she sings, as if whispering down the phone. Miller won’t let the tiniest sliver of distance get between her and the lyric, even as a witty country-rock rhythm crackles around “All My Love.” She’s joined by a ruminative guitar, then a gently swaying harmonica and piano, but not much more.

In that quiet solitude, she examines a very modern, very adult passion.

“My friends tell me I am a silly girl to waste my time,” Miller adds, cranking up to knowing purr. “I don’t bother to respond. All I can do is smile, because they don’t know what I know.”

Same with people outside of Columbia, South Carolina, where she bounced around the music scene for a few years. Miller may have been the town’s best-kept secret. But, after a recent move to Nashville, word’s starting to spread.

This is the fourth independent release for Miller, who was born and raised in Dothan, Alabama, and so far the most celebrated. Journey to the Moon earned a spot on Performer Magazine’s list of “Great Records from 2010,” just months after her song “Keep it Simple” was featured during the closing credits on the NBC television program “Mercy.”

Miller has toured with a full band (the brilliantly named Misadventures) and, more recently, with husband James Miller accompanying her only on mandolin and guitar, and her records display the same willingness to explore broad contextual shifts.

I like the smaller moments.

Making of “Journey to the Moon” from Hannah Miller on Vimeo.

“All My Love,” as with much of Journey to the Moon, boasts this great unmannered instrumental economy. Where so much of today’s music settles for easy combustibility, Miller reaches back to a style and grace associated with the Great American Songbook era. Credit, too, the production work of Nashville’s Ian Fitchuk and Justin Loucks, who deftly replace that period’s brassy swing with a next-gen Americana melding of country, rock and pop. Together, they’ve created something at once new and timelessly appealing.

Oh, and sexy as hell.

That’s the creative friction that makes “All My Love” so compelling. For all its musical simplicity, this isn’t another safe paean to tickle fights and long walks across a postcard beach. No, when Miller says she’s saving it up, she means every bit of it: “Bless my soul, when you get home,” Miller coos, with a remarkable, undomesticated sensuality, “the things I plan to do.”

“All My Love” connects so deeply because it’s a song about desire’s freedom — and Miller, bless her soul, she sings it that way.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this: