Trent Miller is Italian by birth but has been ploughing his furrow in London for the better part of 8 years now. In that time, he’s signed to Bucketful of Brains and released two studio albums prior to this one, gaining a reputation on the live circuit for dark and twisted tales of love and loss. Burnt Offerings is his strongest set yet and includes twelve highly melodic takes on folk-rock that show a sure and steady progression from his previous, er, offerings.
The majority of the songs move at pace, propelled by solid rhythms embellished with arpeggio chords, mouth organ, fiddle and the occasional descent into fuzz and noise. Frothy melodies bubble up through the shades of grey and sub-gothic patina to run free. Stylistically, you hear heart-on-the-sleeve Dylan, Guy Clarke storytelling and Jimmy Webb’s affinity for channeling minor key sorrows that embed themselves in your conscience and repeat to pleasant distraction. First impressions tend to focus on Trent’s voice, a sonorous bass somewhere between the honeyed gravel of Richard Hawley and The Mission’s Wayne Hussey, best displayed on the second track (and first single), Lupita Dream On.
When I saw Trent recently he was ably backed by Barbara Bartz on fiddle, but a full band adds layers that naturally flesh the sound out. Specific mention should be given to the mouth organ and lap steel that highlights the melodies on the softly affecting Hearts On A Wire and the poppy All These Violent Years. Pictures From A Different World has Kinks echoes and the tremendous album highlight Your Black Heart motors along like the Beatles circa Please Please Me. Those last three form a formidably catchy backbone to the album and feature some lovely backing vocals that lift the chorus and middle-eights without weighing the songs down; quite a feat for his dark materials.
Panic not, however. The album does sad and mysterious too. Sands Of Time adds piano frills and staccato fiddle to a lyric full of woe where ‘..promises turns to lies’. Sorrow Knows Better is the rockier end of folk but maintains the edgy subject-matter; you won’t be singing ‘Some of them wish the good Lord will send a bullet straight to their brains’ in Sunday School or on the bus.
Regardless, the album bears the yin and yang tunes without the join showing. Repeated listens confirm a cohesive whole built from the disparate blocks. Nowhere is this better represented than by Cold Ashes, the guitar muted and jangly over a drone bass until a superb rock-a-billy come Cash riff intervenes. It’s short, inventive and as good a single as Lupita should Trent and Bucketful have plans to release any more from the album. Trent Miller is a persuasive storyteller who keeps his songs short and purposeful, allowing the music to to draw you in and the words to anchor you. Burnt Offerings promises much and delivers; light the blue touch paper and stand back.
Review by: Paul Woodgate
Released by Bucketfull Of Brains Records www.bucketfullofbrains.net
Trent’s website wwww.trent-miller.com