The very first time that our website had the opportunity and the privilege to review an album from Minneapolis-born pianist and singer/songwriter Scottie Miller, it was in 2017, with the release of Stay Above Water under the Scottie Miller Band name, an album that strongly impressed our website through the power of the collective's eclectic sound and Miller's ability in penning strong songs and delivering them through his very recognizable deep and powerful voice, together with his remarkable ability as a pianist too.
Given the fact that Miller is an artist that, by his own choice and throughout his career, has never fallen into the temptation of signing for a record label, preferring to that to have total artistic freedom and control of his music, it is perhaps not surprising, taking also into consideration the 2020 pandemic that brought the whole world to a stand still, that it took a little while for the American pianist to be able to release a new project that, as it is always the case with Scottie Miller, would perfectly reflect his vision and his personal artistic journey.
While many, including our website, were fully aware of Miller's many talents as a music artist, some were already aware that the singer/songwriter had written, through the years, also several hundreds of poems that focused on his life, either while On The Road, as a musician or on a more personal level.
It was therefore a hugely appreciated surprise for our website finding out that Scottie Miller had recently announced that his new project, called Carnival Cocoon, a record that includes 23 of the many poems that Miller has written throughout several stages of his life, was also available in a book format with the same name, a book where, together with the 23 poems chosen by the American artist for the record, Miller had included more than 50-plus of his fabulous life tales too.
In Bluebird Reviews' personal opinion, it is very fair to say that Carnival Cocoon is a complete statement of Miller's many talents and on so many levels. It's Art at its best, a body of work that incorporates that fine line where different artforms meet one another, creating one, massive and intensely beautiful artistic project.
It's important to start to talk about Carnival Cocoon in its book form first, where Miller had to go through his full archive, an archive which includes almost 800-plus poems that the American artist had written in all these years, to then be able to determine which of them was ending up being in his book and record.
The book is divided in five different sections, sections where Miller analyzes the multi-faceted complexity of the human condition through a free-form writing style that marries beautifully the tradition of the American Classic Literature, between masters of the Beat Generation like Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac with some of the greatest pioneers of the Romantic Age, like William Blake and W.B. Yeats.
The record, as mentioned before, includes 23 of the 78 inspired poems included in Carnival Cocoon, with a particular emphasis on the poems part of the first, third and fifth section of the book, with the American singer/songwriter paying a great attention to detail on each arrangement accompanying the poems, arrangements that vary in style, in true Miller tradition, from Jazz Club atmospheres, Latin rhythms, Blues, Folk and even to contemporary Hip-Hop.
Miller surrounds himself with very accomplished musicians, throughout the whole duration of Carnival Cocoon's record version, including, among others, Miller's long-time fellow friend and singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster (extraordinary her duet with Miller on the piece called Stay), the string arrangements carefully cured by violinist and celloist Cierra Alise Hill and the excellent work on double and electric bass made by Jeff Bailey.
Then, naturally, there is Scottie Miller at the center of all this marvelous project that is Carnival Cocoon, with his intense vocal delivery, no matter whether expressed in a traditional song format or more in a Parlato/Troubadour-esque style and a piano playing style that can be soothing and seductive, at times and when needed, as much as it can be more erratic, dreaming or even raw, in parts of the record, but always with a specific intent, a purpose behind it every time.
Whether you will decide to buy either the CD or the Book (or the two together, that would be our personal suggestion), Carnival Cocoon is a truly magnificent portrait of an artist and a man depicting the fragility and the emotional depth of mankind, in a superb work that embraces the concept of Art at 360 degrees and in the most universal meaning of it. One of the most inspired and remarkable artistic projects of 2023 confirming Scottie Miller as one of the most talented, instinctive, creative and passionate music artists of the last two decades.
Carnival Cocoon is out now and it can be purchased in each format on Scottie Miller's Official Website