Rhett Miller with Black Prairie
Origin: Dallas, Texas
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Stewart Ransom Miller II (born September 6, 1970), better-known as Rhett Miller, is the lead singer of the alternative country band Old 97’s and a successful solo musician. He graduated from St. Mark’s School of Texas, a private boys’ school in Dallas, in 1989 and briefly attended Sarah Lawrence College on a creative writing scholarship before dropping out to pursue a music career.
Miller’s first musical endeavor was in 1990 with Murry Hammond and drummer Benjamin Warrenfells, who formed the Sleepy Heroes, an alterna-pop band. They disbanded after one album, but the band laid the groundwork for the Old 97’s, which Miller and Hammond formed in 1993. The Old 97’s drew inspiration from a broad range of genres, including the twangy stomp of cowpunk and the melodies of power pop.
The Old 97’s are recognized as pioneers of the alt-country movement, along with bands such as Uncle Tupelo, Drive-By Truckers, Whiskeytown, The Jayhawks, and The Bottle Rockets. They have released ten studio albums and one live album. Their most recent release is 2014’s Most Messed Up. Most songs are written and sung by Miller.
Rhett Miller has recorded five solo albums. The 1989 album Mythologies was produced and recorded by future Old 97’s member Murry Hammond. The 2002 album The Instigator, produced and recorded with noted LA producer Jon Brion, received critical acclaim and substantial airplay on alternative-oriented radio stations. In 2006, Miller released The Believer (Verve Forecast). It includes a cover of Brion’s “I Believe She’s Lying”, and “Fireflies”, a duet with Rachael Yamagata. His fourth, Rhett Miller, (2009) (Shout! Factory), and includes Jon Brion on guitar and bass, The Apples in Stereo’s John Dufilho on drums and Billy Harvey on guitar. Upon the album’s release, Rolling Stone called it Miller’s “strongest solo set ever.”
Miller’s new release, 2015’s The Traveler, is a spirited, driving folk-pop album with Black Prairie, a six-piece bluegrass-influenced band from Portland, Oregon. The band formed in early 2007. Their first album, Feast of the Hunter’s Moon (Sugar Hill), was released in 2010. The band is a side project of The Decemberists’ Chris Funk (dobro) and Nate Query (bass). Their musical influences include bluegrass, klezmer, jazz, tango, and Romanian music resulting in a unique sound. Chris Funk says Black Prairie’s sound “bridges the music of Clarence White and Ennio Morricone”.
Chris Funk (dobro)
Nate Query (bass)
Jenny Conlee (accordion)
John Moen (drums)
Annalisa Tornfelt (singer/violinist)
Jon Neufeld (guitarist)