WINNIPEG, Manitoba ? "You got to shine that light in your heart. This I know," sings Derek Miller on his debut album "Music is the Medicine." Shining won't be a problem for this talented young Mohawk from Six Nations. Sound of America Records (SOAR) just released Miller's first full-length album this October. "A great new young artist to say the least," said Tom Bee of SOAR.
Miller provides lead and background vocals plus most of the lyrics for the 11-track CD. Miller's animated use of Fender Stratocasters gives his performance both the edge of rock and roll and the soul of blues. "Music is the Medicine" features some of the hottest guitar playing ever to be merged with Native American themes. The accompanying liner notes provide full lyrics even though Miller seems to be one of a limited number of rockers who can enunciate well enough to be fully understandable.
Derek Miller was the recipient of the Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Male Artist in 1999. He also won a Native American Music Award in 2001 as co-producer of Keith Secola's album "Fingermonkey" in the category of Best Independent Recording.
"Music is the Medicine" was recorded with the help of several talented musicians. In a Sept. 29 interview with Indian Country Today, Miller said that he was lucky to get the help of long-time buddies Mark Vanni on drums for "Jaded are my Wings," "Wheels on Fire," and "Corn Cob Soup" and Ken Hoover who co-wrote many bass lines. "[I was] very lucky to get that relationship ? it's so easy to play when you don't need to explain yourself," said Miller speaking of the half mumble ? half gestural language that passes as his musical direction.
Brandon Frieson provided programming and keyboards. Frieson put together the rest of the hardworking group including Paul Scinocca, percussion, Brian Whiteway, keyboards, and Lucie Idlout, background vocals.
The influences behind Miller include such greats as Bob Marley, Al Green, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Williams, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. They are plainly heard in his music and seem to have influenced more than just his style. "I played Gibson SG guitars for years ? had a '66 that I traded with the local bootlegger for a case of beer. I made four records with it and threw it out the window," said Miller. "I've had a ton of guitars over the years ? they just seem to disappear out of windows."
Such behavior doesn't seem to be Miller's trademark however. In answer to "Who would you say your greatest influence is?" Miller replied "Tortured souls are the most appealing to me, and with that said, the greatest influence has been [either] Eric Clapton or God, which ever name you like to use, hope, love, sundown at the Grand Canyon, etc."
When asked how his Mohawk heritage has influenced his work, Miller thought and slowly responded "Hard question to answer ? I think the strongest sense of my heritage in my work is the sense of survival and the potency of my ancestors' will ? the wisdom of an empire and the unveiling of the mystery."
The skillful combination of Miller's influences has created an album of exceeding talent and depth for such a newcomer. He flows from blues to rock to traditional Native American chords with little effort. While many of his guitar riffs seem a bit "borrowed," songs like "Heaven" and "Lovesick Blues #49" hint at a star in the making with a style all his own.
The modern rock approach to ancient themes is becoming ever more prevalent in a society seeking to recapture the fickle interests of its youth. But more than that, Miller has a definite crossover appeal that could capture the fancy of rock enthusiasts of every age, gender and race.
To learn more about Derek Miller and purchase his CD visit www.derekmillermusic.com, www.soundofamerica.com. Write to Sound of America Records, 5200 Constitution Ave., N.E., Albuquerque, N.M. 87119 or phone (800) 890-SOAR.