- Troy Millette, Living With a Ghost
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
In a 2015 review of Jason Isbell's album Something More Than Free, Pitchfork's Stephen Deusner described the singer-songwriter as having "an eye for telling details that accrue into specific settings and characters." It might seem crazy to compare, well, anyone to one of modern-day Americana's most popular and exalted performers, but this particular description aptly applies to Fairfax songster Troy Millette.
On his debut solo release, the EP Living With a Ghost, Millette serves up five alt-country-tinged light rock songs about universal topics of love, friendship and finding one's path in the world. The themes are broad, but the lyrical and musical details pack a big emotional punch.
Youthful hellraising is a trope in today's popular country music. However, when the narrator in "Brothers" recounts getting drunk with his buddies and running from the cops, it's more of an acknowledgment than a glorification of the past. He recognizes that his hometown "is just a little bit louder now" — as in, things change, people grow up and that's OK.
"Runaway" tells the story of a woman with a "lightning storm beneath her folded arms" looking to leave a bad relationship for a better life. With a simple phrase about stacking boxes in a brand-new basement, Millette, in his raspy drawl, evokes the challenges and the sense of possibility that can come with a change of course.
Nashville guitarist John Barclay pulls heartstrings throughout the EP with textural electric guitar playing that adds depth without stealing shine from Millette's acoustic work.
Millette, who was chosen by listeners to join Grace Potter's 2017 Grand Point North festival, recorded Living With a Ghost with Christopher Hawthorn of Burlington's Studio 150. Hawthorn produced, mixed and played keys on the EP.
Additional musicians include Ezra Oklan on drums and Robinson Morse on bass. Vermont singer-songwriter Francesca Blanchard pitches in with background vocals on the mid-tempo love song "Home."
Millette graduated from Saint Michael's College in 2016 with a degree in English and a minor in creative writing. He essentially delivers a work of flash fiction in his song "Magnolias" with the lyrics "Counting snowflakes on some lonely drive / Singing 'Born to Run' but stumbling through my life." With imagery like that, this collection is sure to strike a chord with fans of storytelling Americana troubadours such as Isbell and the radio-friendly stylings of Kip Moore.
Living With a Ghost is available on iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music and at troymillettemusic.com. Catch Millette on Tuesday, April 16, as part of his weekly residency at 14th Star Brewing in St. Albans.