Texas Music Magazine
Risk of the Roar
By Tom Buckley
It's been 12 years since Kim Miller recorded her delightful six-song Child of the Big Sky , with its unforgettable title tune of a young girl's memories of West Texas . So any musical endeavor at this point would be something of a risk. But on Risk of the Roar , produced by Miller, Marvin Dykhuis (Tish Hinojosa) and Cam King (Roky Erickson), the former dive master proves that time is her asset, as she crafts meticulous, intimate tales at once hypnotic and seductive, buoyed by a voice remarkable in it's ability to express complex emotion. And while the heart of Miller's art beats for loves lost and found and the insatiable quest for romantic venture there's a welcome political element to her work here as well, as on “Madame Bovary,” in which the title character is given a refreshingly feminist take, or “Must Be a Way,” a hopeful swing tune inspired by a child's innocent question about war. Recorded in Nashville , Santa Fe , Albuquerque and Austin , Miller takes listeners on a tantalizing journey part lonely temptress, always hopeless romantic that serves as a sophisticated meditation on the precariousness and possibility involved in risk.
By Margaret Moser
Kim Miller doesn't believe in rushing things: It's been almost a decade since her last album, Child of the Big Sky . The local singer-songwriter is less about chasing fame than being completely satisfied with her sonic output, and her long-anticipated Risk of the Roar proves the wait was well worth it. Miller's confident vocals flow with the strength and beauty of the evening tide ("Soy Tu Sirena," "Dive in Deep"), encasing 12 roots-folk songs in the key of love ("Happenstance") with an undercurrent of caution and wariness ("Madame Bovary"). That she surrounded herself with stellar musicianship helps – Marvin Dykhuis, Cam King, and Mark Hallman, among others – but don't hold your breath waiting for her next recording: This is the one to savor.
Risk of the Roar - Clean and Mellifluous
By Arthur Wood, founding editor of FolkWax E-Zine
This recording began life a couple of years ago in Nashville, took a short break in New Mexico, and was completed in and around Austin, Texas . Kim Miller, who was raised in far West Texas, released the mini-album Child Of The Big Sky a decade ago and while she never quite hung up her guitar or pen nor relinquished standing in corners, other life priorities took precedence for a time. Now she's back and her twelve-song Risk of The Roar was co-produced by Miller, Marvin Dykhuis (Tish Hinojosa), and Cam King (Freddie Krc, The Explosives).
Lyrically speaking, Miller's forte is relationships, and while my dislike of that genre relates specifically to the common or garden varieties of "moon, June 'n' spoon" and the hopelessly slushy "woe is me, since he/she left," Miller's creations are more subtle and veiled in terms of their word structure. Some even possess a sensuality that's suggestion and only occasionally admission, and that I applaud. In terms of the track-by-track instrumentation, Risk of The Roar is a prime case of less is more. For instance, sparks fly when Dykhuis' acoustic guitar trades off with Tammy Rogers' fiddle on "Must Be A Way." Cut by cut, the sound of each instrument is crystal clear and totally occupies its allotted space. To sum things up, the two words that truly define the sonic qualities of this recording are clean and mellifluous.
Sensuality is what I said and sensuality is precisely what drives the opening, album title cut. The opening line snapshot "I got this ball and I got this chain" is pursued by the (word-clever) disclosure "I got no sense to come in out of the pain," and similar image-filled couplings are embraced in the opening lines of the second and third verses. As for Miller's lead vocal, is it superbly supported on each chorus by Tommy Elskes' husky-toned backing vocal. Myth and magic are woven into the lines of "If I Could Find You" by the narrator, a seeker of true love, while "Last Night" is founded on the premise of till death do us part (and then reunite). By the close of the also clever "Smilin'," the narrator is finally able to indulge unconditionally in that pleasurable act, her heart once again whole.
Elskes steps up to the microphone once more on "Must Be A Way" and while, lyrically, there's reference to birds of the air and earthbound beasts, the message hinges on the chorus lines "Must be a way to surely share some heart/Without tearin' each other apart." "My Old Friend" is a reflection on an affair that's long over and, while the scar has healed, the episode is not forgotten as attested by "Has everyone lost their footing reaching for the sky/While you and I are grounded by these things we've tried." The edgy "Nor'wester" bears the hallmarks of a traditional sea song and is filled with images of spume-topped, storm-tossed waves; sailors who perish in those waters; and, brides who wear weeds. While I might have omitted to mention the unsinkable Vince Bell 's rather fine backing vocal on "If I Could Find You," his ghostly contribution to "Happenstance" totally tops it. A Warren Hood string arrangement supports the intricate "Happenstance" melody which is finger-picked on guitar and it skips and steps lightly while lyrically overflowing with the joyous excess of new-found love - "You've got the passion to restore me, you're my favourite bedtime story."
Melodically, "I Still Believe" soars then swoops like a swift in flight, while there's a Byrds-y jangle to King's twelve-string guitar on the joyous aquatic anthem "Dive In Deep." Serialized, Gustave Flaubert's Madam Bovary first appeared in print during the latter half of 1856 and was the subject of an obscenity trial early the following year. Flaubert was soon acquitted and the book was published in April of 1857. In the opening verse Miller explores the enigma that was Madam Bovary and in the ensuing verse imagines how this fictional character would survive in these temptation-filled modern times, then, at the close, Miller draws a few personal parallels. In the closing cut, "Soy Tu Sirena" (it translates as "I Am Your Siren"), Miller's once-earthly narrator returns to the lonely sea and the sky ("I pull the waves over me, a blanket for my soul").
While it wouldn't be amiss to raise the spectre of Joni Mitchell in relation to Miller's musical approach, the vintage that I'm referring to would be the stripped-down acoustic period of forty years ago. Traveling much farther back in human existence, once upon a time there was the first song, and everything since has been a version. The foregoing said, the dozen tunes featured here possess the indelible stamp of being penned and sung by Kim Miller.
“Imagination blossoms in the panoramas that Kim provides in her evocative songs. She sets the stage with stories and actors, the script is hinted, and your invitation to partner in the development of the action is persuaded by Kim's absorbing vocals and passionate performance.”
--Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse
“Sensuality is precisely what drives ‘Risk of the Roar' ... a sensuality that's suggestion and only occasionally admission, and that I applaud.”
--Arthur Wood - Founding Editor of FolkWax E-Zine
"Kim Miller is a strong songwriter with a voice like a warm Texas breeze"
--Tom Neff - Grassy Hill Radio
“Risk of the Roar is an utterly perfect work - a stunning work of art.”
--Betty Elders - Singer Songwriter
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