Broken Things

Julie Miller

Hightone Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


As the year winds down here at the Pierce Memorial Archives, I'm left sitting in front of a pile of relatively new releases that I just haven't gotten to review yet. I guess if I had the luxury of quitting my real job, I'd have more time to devote to getting through the ever-growing pile - as well as getting to all those damned interviews I have yet to transcribe.

One of these discs which has been patiently waiting for me to give it a spin is Broken Things, the latest release from country/folk chanteuse Julie Miller. If you want to try and pigeon-hole her into one clear-cut category - well, go right ahead. I'll wait.

Go ahead and try to explain to yourself how Miller can make the jump from the poppiness of "Ride The Wind To Me" to the soft crooning ballad of "I Know Why The River Runs" - changes one right after the other, hopping over the lines of genre like a Mexican jumping bean.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Not so easy to classify her, is it? Brother, don't I know it. Even after giving Broken Things a few listens, I still don't know if country/folk is the right label to stick on her. All I do know is that, with rare exception, Miller shines on this disc and keeps you interested in every note she has to sing.

Granted, there are a few moments of weakness, where it sounds like Miller is trying to cover too much musical ground in one album. "I Need You" just is not the kind of vehicle that is perfectly suited for Miller's vocal style, and it shows. But hold on - she shows that she's perfectly able to tackle a more rock-like vein on "Strange Lover," a track that has more twists than a rollercoaster in the summer. So maybe this was just an isolated flaw on "I Need You".

There is enough of a twang in Miller's style to justify calling some of her stylings country, though this is hardly die-cut country music. If anything, Miller uses the power of the ballads to showcase her vocals the best. Tracks like "I Know Why The River Runs," "I Still Cry" and "Maggie" all will make you sit up and take notice of Miller, as well as make you wonder how much longer it will be before her star really begins to rise in the world of adult-contemporary. (Hey, if Shania Twain, Trisha Yearwood and Faith Hill can all cross over, why can't Miller, who keeps roots in all the different musical tributaries?)

What I like most about Broken Things is that it's an album that never seems to get old or stale-sounding. There are enough musical shifts that even after multiple listenings, you'll find yourself caught off-guard by the direction that Miller takes. Admittedly, such shifts have sunk more popular artists who tried to bite off more than they could chew. But that's where Miller has the advantage; she knows just when to make the switch, and how extreme to take it without sending the listener into shock.

Broken Things is the kind of album you might not give first thought to purchasing while walking down the aisles of Borders - but once you sit down and give it a fighting chance, you'll wonder how you lived without such a disc for so long.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen 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 Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.