If you like your acoustic music on the stripped down and authentic, old-time edge of the roots spectrum, this album is for you. The first recording Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller have done as a duo is the second in a multi-artist series for a project called Deep End Sessions. Milnes and Miller recorded the session in January 2015 at the Deep End Ranch, an hour north of Los Angeles. The ranch, which dates back to the early 1900s, is a peaceful place to unplug from high-tech living and recharge one’s batteries. A string of house concerts with a focus on Southern Appalachian traditional music evolved into the Deep End Sessions album series.
The living room concert vibe is the musically intimate setting for the 17 cuts on this album: a mix of instrumentals and vocals, with both Jesse and Emily switching off on fiddle, guitar, and lead vocals. Fans will recognize a few favorites like “Angelina Baker,” “Come All You Roving Gamblers,” “Fine Times At Our House,” Hazel Dickens’ “My Better Years,” and Ola Belle Reed’s “Undone In Sorrow,” but the fun part of this record is discovering new, old songs passed down from each musician’s family and friends. Miller also sings lead and is twin fiddler in the trad-country band, the Sweetback Sisters. Milnes grew up immersed in the West Virginia old-time music scene, learning from Melvin Wine, Ernie Carpenter, and his father, Gerry Milnes.
The music is lively, soulful, and at times funny, as in “Fun’s All Over” and a song Jesse wrote about Emily called “My Baby’s Not A Nightowl.” Emily’s sweet original, “I Got Lucky,” was written as a gift for Jesse for their wedding. Throw in a few square-dance fiddle tunes, waltzes, and a shape-note style gospel song, and you have a perfect soundtrack for a quiet night at home by the fireplace. Liner notes claim, “There’s a reason this music has lasted so long. This music is not a trend, a fad, or a fashion—and make no mistake, this music isn’t retro or vintage in any way. It’s timeless.” Purists and fans who fear the roots of bluegrass music disappears with the passing of each of our treasured elderly fiddlers and banjo players will be heartened to discover Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller. Our past is in good hands for the future with musicians like these two. (www.emmyandjesse.com)NC