Rhett Miller (of the Old 97's) Solo Acoustic. Special guest Jessica Lea Mayfield - 12/29
at City Winery Chicago
- 6:00 pm
- 8:00 pm
WNUR Welcomes Rhett Miller and Jessica Lea Mayfield
Rhett will play a completely new show each night!
About Rhett Miller
"It’s a grown-up record,” Rhett Miller says of his extraordinary new album, The Dreamer. “It takes a long time to feel the confidence to step up and be the boss. I finally feel like I’m there.”
Rhett Miller has made a number of fine solo albums over his long, illustrious career, but none have felt quite as exemplary as The Dreamer. A collection of “simple American songs and instrumentation,” the album marks the second release on Miller’s own Maximum Sunshine Records as well as the singer/songwriter’s first foray into self-production. Sparsely arranged but animated with unrefined energy and emotion, songs like “Out Of Love” and “Swimmin’ In Sunshine” join together elements of classic country, indie folk, and chamber pop, bridging the space between Miller’s harder rocking work with the Old 97’s and the inventive complexity of his brilliant solo career.
Despite the Old 97’s prolificacy in recent years – including five studio albums over the last decade – Miller found himself with a cache of material that didn’t necessarily work within the rather ornery confines of the band. The songs all had a common thread which marked them as too temperate for the 97’s and yet more traditional roots-rock than anything Miller had done on prior solo records.
The earthy country pop of The Dreamer is ideally matched by the plaintive characterizations and the nuanced craftsmanship of a master tunesmith. Having loosely structured the album to create a somewhat illusory impression of loss, disconnection, and eventual redemption, Miller consciously infused The Dreamer with a subtle sense of the unconscious.
“There’s a very dreamlike quality to what’s going on in these songs,” he says. “There’s a sonic quality, of gently loping rhythms, and all these lyrics that are realistic but somewhat disjointed.”
Those off-kilter observations distinguish such songs as “Out of Love,” which was inspired by the big beats blaring in the breakfast room of a hipster boutique hotel but ultimately morphed into Miller’s “answer to what a hit pop song would sound like in my perfect world.” Elsewhere, “Picture This” serves as the album’s tender heart, expertly exemplifying the album’s bucolic soulfulness and spirit. “It’s a song about growing up, getting married, having a couple of kids, and how unlikely the whole thing seems,” Miller says. “They had written some really sweet lyrics, then I brought the value of my experience with regards to that specific situation and we were able to come up with this song together.” A similar merging of sagacity and ingenuousness can be said to sum up The Dreamer, its smart, skilled songwriting balanced and brought to life by a playful spontaneity and its creator’s hard-earned confidence. Having taken the reins into his own hands, Rhett Miller has crafted what feels like a milestone in his unquestionably robust oeuvre, a definitive portrait of the artist at his autonomous best. “I loved making this album so much,” he says enthusiastically, “seeing the ease with which it can be done. Doing this myself, on my own label, with all these friends, it was a dream come true.”
Jessica Lea Mayfield
The 23-year old from Kent, Ohio first performed with her family band One Way Rider at the age of 8. At age 15, she recorded her first album "White Lies" in her brother's bedroom, printing only 100 copies. One of those copies fell into the hands of Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys). After an introduction, Mayfield and Auerbach hit the studio, laying the foundation for her debut album "With Blasphemy So Heartfelt". Says Auerbach of the recording experience, “I think she’s dark and moody in a mysterious way.” He adds, “I’m just always really excited to make music with her.”
Tell Me, Jessica’s 2011 Nonesuch Records debut, is a stunningly forthright 11-song set that addresses late night longing, serial heartbreak, and intoxicatingly dangerous liaisons conducted in dimly lit barrooms or roadside motels. By the end, the only heart intact is Mayfield’s own. It’s as if she’d stripped the sentimentality and ruefulness from a bunch of classic country songs, leaving only stark emotion. Auerbach also produced and engineered "Tell Me" at his Easy Eye Sound System studio in Akron, Ohio, matching Mayfield’s candor with eerily minimal, brilliantly constructed tracks that keep her mesmerizing, unadorned voice front and center.
The New York Times hailed the album a Critics’ Pick, while the Associated Press calls "Tell Me," “the portrait of a precocious girl growing into self-assured womanhood and a producer reaching the peak of his powers. It is a dark and moody album, full of delights throughout, and if it doesn't make Mayfield a star, that too will be heartbreaking.”