Choke Cherry Tree

Ben Miller Band

New West Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


The Joplin, Missouri residents brings us 11 new tunes and a couple new members for this third album. Now with Rachel Ammons and Smilin' Bob Lewis on board, there's some new flavor to the Ben Miller Band's rootsy rock formula, and Ammons even lends her vocals on occasion.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Though the album gets off to an eerie start with the low organ of “Nothing Gets Me Down,” it doesn't take long for the warm acoustic guitars and dual gender vocals to infiltrate the sparse tune. “Akira Kurosawa” then picks up the pace with bluesy electric guitars and loud percussion as it builds into a fun, psych-influenced rocker. This leads well into the fuzzed out guitars and call-and-response rock of “One More Time.”

The middle of the album stays loud and fun with “Big Boy,” which yields a mild grunge influence before the accordion and horn rowdiness of “Trapeze.” This track sounds like a party at the foot of a mountain and is one of the best moments here. “Lighthouse” then brings us to an orchestral atmosphere where keys take the lead as elegant strings support the softness. Meanwhile, on the only tune not written by just Miller, “Redwing Blackbird,” female vocals come right to the forefront.

The last few tracks brings us even more varied sounds. “Life Of Crime” is bluesy boogie rock affair, and “Sketchbook” is the absolute best moment here with a quirky, jumpy, retro folk tune. The two longest and calmest offerings end the listen. “Mississippi Cure” is the best of the pair, where aching strings break into a genre defying Ben Miller Jam Band exit.

An eclectic listen that moves all over the rock spectrum, Choke Cherry Tree features a band whose layering and strong song craft could soundtrack a campfire, a hoedown, and a stadium. It's an album where no two tunes sound alike, but all are worth spending some considerable time with.

Rating: A-

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© 2018 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of New West Records, and is used for informational purposes only.