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Published: 2004/02/26
by Matt Brockett

Family Roots – JiMiller Band

If you live outside of Ohio, there is a pretty decent chance you've never
heard of JiMiller Band, or for that matter, Jim Miller himself. That needs
to change. Miller's soulful voice and tight songwriting form the backbone of
the JiMiller band, but it is the group's ability to create truly American
music that makes them what they are. The JiMiller Band blends together
blues, country, cajun, old rock 'n' roll, jazz and bluegrass into a musical
Americana that is both fresh and timeless, no small feat by any means.

Family Roots is a double live album recorded on September 20, 2003 at
the Greenville Inn in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. The band is in their element and
on their home turf, allowing them to truly shine. The show gives the
listener a perfect idea of the scope of the JiMiller Band, where tightness
is a given on both originals and cover tunes alike. The most refreshing
thing about them, in terms of their being a part of the jamband scene, is
the fact that they jam, but they don't noodle. Their trademark seems to be
very focused, tight jams, not the meandering, pointless space-fillers some
jambands like to play. They never let a jam get to the point where the
listener asks, "Okay, now what?" — a quality that could definitely help win
them a few fans outside of the modern jamband world.

Don't be fooled by the heaping helping of cover tunes on Family Roots, these
guys have that seldom seen ability to take songs that we all know and make
them their own, breathing new life into the familiar. Traditionals that
you've almost definitely heard, even if you don't recognize their titles,
like "Lay Me A Pallet" and "Pig In The Pen," seem vibrant and new while
remaining recognizable. The cover tunes blend in seamlessly with their
powerful and complex originals. Jim has been playing some of the originals
for quite some time now, including "Sing It To Your Children," a tune he
used to perform with Oroboros over twenty years ago.

Their choice of cover tunes reveals an obvious Grateful Dead affinity.
Interestingly, all of the tunes that JiMiller Band borrows from the GD
repertoire, songs like "Aiko Aiko/Man Smart Woman Smarter" and "Hey Pocky
Way," were cover songs when the Dead played them too. Furthering the
connection, Miller even played an opening slot for the 1996 Further
Festival, has opened for Robert Hunter, and when he was in Oroboros he
opened for Brent Mydland and Bill Kreutzmann's side-project Go Ahead.

And the question still remains. Why haven't most people heard of them yet?
Their tour schedule may possibly hold the answer. It is comprised mostly of
weekend shows, all of which are in Ohio, pointing to the likely possibility
of day jobs. The real world can be a bummer sometimes, especially for
musicians.

The JiMiller Band would be the perfect addition to many a summer festival, a
fact that hopefully some promoters will realize. Their easy going style,
with the occasional mandolin lick thrown in, would make them the perfect
warm-up for acts like String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, or even The
Dead. So keep your fingers crossed that the world will wake up soon, and if
you live in Ohio and haven't yet checked JiMiller Band out yet, well, what
are you waiting for?

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