BMan Blues Report
I just had the opportunity to review the most recent release, Leopard Print Dress, by Dee Miller Band and it a mover. Opening with swinging boogie, Hot And Sweaty, Dee Miller takes the lead on vocal with Craig Clark on vocal and guitar, Eric Meyer on bass and vocal, Jesse Mueller on smoking hot keys and Mike DuBois on drums. Cool opener. A cover of the Eagles, Take It To The Limit,is a surprise with just a slight rework of the original arrangement but with exceptional gospel styling to the vocals and key piano accents by John Pinckaers giving the track real oomph. Excellent. Rocker, Leopard Print Dress has a really strong drive that will force you into a dancing groove. Mueller leads on piano boogie Back In The Saddle with Miller stepping back, still providing lead vocal but giving center stage to Mueller, Steve Clarke on sax and Kevin Nord on trumpet. Soul track, Last Two Dollars is another of my favorites on the release with great feel. Exceptional lead vocal and guitar on this track really stand tall. I love not only the funky beat but the smoldering organ work of Mueller and the sweet guitar soloing of Craig Clark on Black Cat Bone. Wrapping the release is Steppin', a deep rooted blues track along the lines of Tobacco Road and Miller really gives it a workout. This is a solid release from an indie band. ~BMan
Ms Dee Miller has been a long time Midwestern Diva running her own band for fifteen years earning the title “The Duchess of the Blues” in her hometown of St Paul, Minnesota and will be representing Minnesota at the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Dee Miller’s band features Craig Clark on guitar, lead and backing vocals, Eric Meyer bass, vocals, Jesse Mueller keyboards and Mike DuBois drums. For a petite woman Dee has a powerful, full-bodied voice and her latest release “Leopard Print Dress” is a real knockout.
The band kicks off the party with an original, getting the house rocking, you can almost hear the glasses clink as the piano swings and Dee growls, lets get “Hot And Sweaty.” Craig Clark starts off the lead vocal intro on “Leopard Print Dress” written by Miller and former bandmate Jimi ‘Primetime’ Smith then lets Dee work her skirt as Paul Mayasich lets fly a slide solo. Funky keys and wah wah guitar churn through Bekka Bramlett’s “Strongest Weakness” as Dee comes on full force overpowering this funky bunch. Then Mueller gets a chance to strut his boogie woogie piano chops as Dee jumps on Kelly Jean Hunt’s “Back In The Saddle,” taking charge with a full horn section to boot. Then easing back, the dueling keys of John Pinekaers’ piano and Toby Marshall’s organ, it’s Dee’s deep intense vocals that “Take It To The Limit,” building a gospel intensity so soulful it took a while to realize this was an Eagles song. The dueling keys continue as Dee gets lowdown, pulling the pathos from Johnny Taylor’s “Last Two Dollars” as Clark’s subtle background vocals and powerful guitar solos are a big payoff. Ms Miller truly makes “I Sing The Blues” her own as Steve ‘Boom Boom’ Vonderherr weaves a lonesome harp around her vocals and Clark’s guitar gives a rolling rhythm and stabs of punctuation. Drifting to a gentle sway, Dee croons over Marshall’s light organ and Boom Boom’s harp as the cymbals dance around the rhythm and soulful backing vocals chime in like a horn section with Dylan Salfer playing some wonderful slide guitar on Derek Trucks’ “Midnight In Harlem.” Craig Clark steps to the front on vocals for Albert Collins “Black Cat Bone” as John Pinekaers sprinkles some juju on piano and Clark lays down some heavy mojo on his solo, driving his vocals to the edge. Then Craig throws down a heavy riff as Miller moans and cries that her man has been “Steppin’” out as the piano plunks out a protest and the guitar gives a thunderous reply till Dee steps in to set things straight.
The Dee Miller Band’s latest CD, “Leopard Print Dress,” ain’t just a frilly frock, these blues are the real thing. —Roger & Margaret White
LEOPARD PRINT DRESS
HOT AND SWEATY–STRONGEST WEAKNESS–TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT–LEOPARD PRINT DRESS–BACK IN THE SADDLE–LAST TWO DOLLARS–I SING THE BLUES–MIDNIGHT IN HARLEM–BLACK CAT BONE–STEPPIN
Dee Miller grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and her powerful singing voice drew her into the fold of several local-area bands, where she earned her nickname of “Duchess Of The Blues.” Her tireless work within the Minnesota blues community also got her elected into the Minnesota Blues Hall Of Fame in 2018.
The Dee Miller Band has just released their third album, “Leopard Print Dress,” which features ten cuts of originals and covers all of which are full of the hi-octane, soul-drenched R & B she’s been playing throughout her career. Joining Dee on this excursion, we have Craig Clark on guitars and vocals, Eric Meyer on bass, Jesse Mueller on keys, and Mike DuBois on drums.
The dance floor’s gonna fill up fast, with the jump of the leadoff cut, “come on, baby, let’s get Hot And Sweaty!” Craig turns up the wah-wah and Dee turns up the heat as she channels her funkiest Etta James in the story of giving up all her vices except for her lover, that one “Strongest Weakness.” The pace slows, but the soulfulness stays strong on a beautiful, nearly-sanctified version of “Take It To The Limit,” while Craig takes the vocal turn on a smokin’ read of Johnnie Taylor’s iconic “Last Two Dollars!”
Favorites were everywhere, but we settled on two. Mr. Mueller lets his left hand do the talkin’ over Dee’s vocal on the boogie-woogie romp of “Back In The Saddle,” then Dee and Craig playfully spar on the title cut, where “nothin’ says “COUGAR” like a Leopard Print Dress and high-heeled shoes!”
The holidays are over, and the IBC’s are on the horizon. The Dee Miller Band will be there, reppin’ for the Minnesota Blues Society. Go up to ’em and say hey, and that you read about ’em from us, and buy a copy of “Leopard Print Dress” from the “Duchess Of The Blues!” Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.
DEE MILLER BAND
Leopard Print Dress: A hard blues rocking white gal with the blues that's here for the party and likes being the center of the action. A rollicking good time album by the Minnesota Duchess of the Blues that has earned her spot in the local blues hall of fame, this is text book example of how to make the good times roll. Sometimes the only message the music needs to carry is "boogie!!!". She knows and shows how to get it done.
Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro © January 2019
Leopard Print Dress" is the third release from The Dee Miller Band. The band is based out of Minnesota and unless you're from there, or attend the International Blues Challenge on a regular basis, you may not be aware of how supportive Minnesotans are of the blues. Considering the state ranks somewhere around number twenty in the population charts, it's my opinion there isn't any other state that has more fans in Memphis during the event. If you don't believe me just be at the top of Beale Street at 3:00 PM on IBC Friday and you'll see. That's where the masses...and I do mean masses... of the Minnesota Blues Society gather for their annual IBC photo. Speaking of that, The Dee Miller Band will be competing at this year's event as the representative of that very society.
The Dee Miller Bands consists of: Dee Miller - The Duchess of the Blues - on vocals; Craig Clark on vocals and guitar; Eric Meyer on bass and vocals; Jesse Mueller on keyboard and Mike DuBois on drums. Additional musicians on the project include: Toby Marshall on Hammond organ; John Pinckaers on piano; Paul Mayasich on steel slide guitar; Steve Clarke on tenor sax; Kevin Nord on screech trumpet, tenor sax, trumpet and trombone: Steve "Boom Boom" Vonderharr on blues harp; Dylan Saifer on slide guitar; and John Wright on tambourine; Covering several style of blues, the album contains two originals mixed in with eight very interestingly done covers.
One sure way to get "Hot And Sweaty" is to head to a crowded dance floor and uncontrollably shake your booty to some sizzling music. This is that sizzling music! This original track features everything you need to get moving: hot and sweaty rhythm with some wild organ and piano leads and a powerfully infectious chorus line in which Dee encourages everyone with "Let's get hot and sweaty, c'mon baby get ready". Great way to open up.
Showing the bands versatility, Dee and the guys took The Eagles' "Take It To The Limit" (Henley/Meisner/Frey) and totally turned it into a hymn. With John Pinckaers' absolutely beautiful piano performance leading the peaceful rhythm mood, it's the vocals that shine on this one. With admirable supporting and background vocals going on with and behind her, Dee puts on an impeccable display of range as she absolutely belts this one out of the park.
The original and title track - "Leopard Print Dress" is another one you could easily get hot and sweaty to. Lyrically, this smoker is pretty much a self-promo for what you can expect at a Dee Miller show. It starts off with Craig setting it up with...
"Well she walked into the club, people were all in a rage.
There she was, like a wildcat out of the cage.
She had the joint jumping, my heart beating out of my chest,
Everybody loves the lady in the leopard print dress." Then Dee takes over from there with...
"Well they call me the Duchess, I'm shootin' straight from the hip.
When I take the stage you know it's gonna be a number one hit.
I'm belting out the blues, you know I do my best,
I said they call me the Duchess, I'm the lady in the leopard print dress."
And right there is a big reason why I will have the Dee Miller Band circled in my IBC program.
This track credits Kelly Hunt as the composer but there are other songs out there with the same, or very similar names, that were written by others. That said, I will tell you this is NOT your Gene Autry version of "Back In The Saddle". That horse of his couldn't run fast enough to keep up this pace. After one hell of a boogie woogie piano intro by Jesse Mueller, Dee belts out the very sound advice of "Snap on your seat belt and hold on tight, we're gonna go for a ride tonight" - and once the horns kick in and set the rhythm on fire, there's no looking back.
One of the first bands I started following after moving to Florida nearly forty years ago was Junior Drinkwater and the Thirst Quenchers". Junior's rendition of "Last Two Dollars" was one that forever makes me think of him whenever I hear the song. With a powerful and soulful voice very similar to Juniors, after hearing Craig belt out his version of the song I've got to thank for him for not only killing it but for reminding me of my old friend and putting a big smile on my face as well.
Perhaps the most beautifully done track of the bunch is "Midnight In Harlem" (M. Mattison/D. Trucks). It's one of those stop what you're doing, sit back, relax, focus completely on the music and just allow it to work its magic on you kind of ballad. Everything about this song from the heavenly vocals of Dee and the background singers as well; to Boom Boom's velvety harp leads; to the soothing rhythm; to the faint tambourine in the background; is mesmeric.
Other tracks on this dynamite disc include: "Strongest Weakness" (B. Bramlett/G. Nicholson), "I Sing The Blues" (E. Bridgeman/P. Wooten), "Black Cat Bone" (K. C. Douglas/A. Collins) and "Steppin'" (B. & R. Carruthers).
I know that a lot of the musicians I heard on this disc will not be a part of Dee's IBC ensemble but with that said, if whomever she brings bangs out anything like I just heard here, I know they'll be going deep into the competition.
To find out more about Dee Miller please go to www.deemillerband.com, and if you've not yet received a copy for airplay please contact Betsie Brown at www.blindraccoon.com. Regardless of whom you contact, please tell them the Blewzzman sent you.
Dee has been called “The Duchess Of The Blues” in her native Minneapolis, and here she lives up to that title with a strong, powerful and energetic set of gritty blues and soul. Etta James is obviously a strong influence, as can be heard not only on the sixties rhythm and blues sound of ‘Strongest Weakness’, with Craig Clark supplying some fiery wah wah guitar, but also with a gospel flavoured reworking of The Eagles’ classic ‘Take It To The Limit’, which Etta also covered. These two follow the aptly titled opener, ‘Hot And Sweaty’, and lead into the rocking title track, an infectious duet between Dee and Craig, and the boogie-woogie of ‘Back In The Saddle’, also featuring fine sax work. ‘Last Two Dollars’ is a fine rendition of this soul-blues classic, ‘I Sing The Blues’ is just that, and The Tedeschi/ Trucks number ‘Midnight In Harlem’ is nicely wistful, with lovely harmonica by Steve “Boom Boom” Vonderharr behind Dee’s wonderfully soulful vocal. ‘Black Cat Bone’ gets a jazzy, funky feel very much in the vein of Albert Collins, and Craig’s vocal fits like a glove. This very entertaining and convincing album closes out with a tough version of Café RnB/ Mary Jo Curry’s ‘Steppin’’ with everyone taking Dee and Craig’s lead and getting down-home and gritty on this grinding blues. ~Norman Darwen~
Blue Monday Monthly Review
I was on the way home one cool fall Friday evening when I decided to stop by and see The Dee Miller Band with Craig Clark.
I was not surprised by the back house on Neumann’s Bar in North Saint Paul, Minnesota. I had heard Dee Miller sing at a benefit a few years back. The house was rocking with the sound of the band. People were dancing on the floor even though it is not a dance floor, but they make the room. Many of my long-time friends were also there to watch Dee Miller with Craig Clark. Everyone in the place was Wowed, by the music that night. Two power-house singers in one band is always a blessing. Especially when one is the powerful blues singer Dee Miller. Dee as her friends call her won Performer of the Year by the Minnesota Blues Society for 2018.
I can recognize her voice anywhere. The power blues singer that could and still matches the best of the best female blues singers of all time. It blows me away evetime she sings. Dee Miller has a dominant low sexy blues voice. Dee Miller sings with power and emotions with each note she sings. She is never off on her notes, tone or rhythm. I have heard her a couple of times throughout the years. I rate Dee Miller number one female blues singer in the nation. Dee Miller is very diverse singing Jazz and the New Minnesota Sound as well.
Next, we have the powerhouse male singer and guitar extraordinaire Craig Clark. He makes his guitar sing and vibrates. He really works his guitar with magic! When he sings, he is among the best in the Nation as well in the top ten for Blues, Jazz, and The New Minnesota Music Sound. What a winning combination to have in the band.
The Bass guitar play and also solo and harmony singer. Is right on the beat, tone, and notes both his guitar and singing. He is one of the best bass players I have seen in a while. Working his bass guitar like some of the best-known bass players thought out the decades.
Last, we had the drummer who is always on beat and did a solo. Great drummer and never went off beat. And wowed the crowd with the drum solo. Having a great drummer is the essential part of the band.
I give Dee Miller five stars for Best Solo Blues, the Jazz, and Minnesota Sound Music singer. I rate Dee Miller as number one for the nation as a great singer of Blues, Jazz, and The Minnesota Sound Music. I give Craig Clark five starts for great rhythm, tone and beat on his guitar. Craig Clark gets five starts for a great performance in a band and five stars for a great and powerful voice. The bass player gets five stars for rhythm, tone, and beat. The bass player gets five stars for the solo and blended singer. The band gets five stars for performance and star qualities in a group. I see The Dee Miller Band with Craig Clark traveling all over the world and being world famous.