Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners
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Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners


Band Blues Country


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"10 Albums I Definitely Should Have Blogged About in 2012"

Jacob Miller is probably the nicest guy in the Northwest's roots music scene, and also one of the most talented. But you know as well as I do that nice guys finish last, so it's up to you and me to keep that from happening. Build up some karma points and titillate your musical tastebuds with his 2012 country blues album, East Side Drag, and share it with your friends! If you're a fan of Pokey Lafarge, Woody Pines, or Old Crow Medicine Show, then this album is for you. Not only is Miller a wickedly talented country blues guitar fingerpicker, but he's got a voice of honeyed gold. He channels the old jugband greats with the same kind of cracked-pavement vocals that must have come out of the back-alley dozens popular in the 30s and 40s, but it's also a voice that wouldn't sound out of place opening up for Colin Meloy & Them Ol' Decemberists. Well, anyways, in a world with justice that would be the case. But here I am, having booked Jacob already twice for awesome shows in the Northwest, and I still haven't got around to writing about his album. Damn, nice guys really do finish last.

East Side Drag is either a short album or a long EP, but either way it's a great taste of more to come from this wickedly talented musician and his merry band of pickers from Portland, Oregon. A few of the songs are hand-picked from old sources, and there are some excellent gems here, my favorite being "Ragtime Millionaire." It's a rollicking F The Man comin' out of the first Great Depression (courtesy of ragtime guitar genius Bill "The Barber" Moore) and still sounding great in our New Great Depression. Miller draws out the raw edge of this song, with its biting satire, "I brush my teeth with diamond dust/And I don't care if the banks go bust". Part of the fun of listening to and studying American roots music are these moments when the past seems impossible present. Miller also KILLS "Hesitation Blues" with one of the best covers I've ever heard of this song (and whoowee I've heard a lot!). The other songs on East Side Drag are all originals, and it's honestly pretty hard to tell them apart, which is a huge compliment to Miller. He's writing songs that sound like they came out of some Kansas City dice game, so full of old-school hokum and ragtime finger-picking, that they'd do any old 78 collector proud. - Hearth Music


'Blue Ridge Ramble' Album - September 2011

'East Side Drag' EP - May 2012

'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' Single December 2012



The simultaneously unique and comforting sound of Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners could be considered a musical experiment in duality. The two components of place and time are the foundation upon which this distinctive style is built. To hear the Crooners, one cannot help but think immediately of prohibition era south. The true narrative of the group, however, centers on the axis of the Pacific Northwest.

Jacob Miller, a Wisconsin native, had been playing music for over a decade, working as a solo artist playing country, blues, and folk when in 2009, he found himself in Portland, Oregon. His time in Bridgetown led him to develop a relationship with fingerpicking ragtime artist Cliff Mitchell. Through his work with Mitchell, Jacob began to develop his ragtime and finger-style technique. It was during this period in Miller’s career when he discovered his strong affinity for the music of the early 20th century but more specifically 1920’s and 30’s American life, music, and culture. His passion for the era extended beyond the sound, and he has made it a continuous focus in his life and area of study from that point on. It is largely due to this connection that the Crooners’ sound transports the listener so easily to another time in US history. Miller seeks not to simply replicate the sounds and works of artists of that era but to truly understand its deeper musical elements and become versed in the subtle nuances of a musical language from a lost age. It was thanks to this motivation and a desire to explore the great American landscape which shaped the very music, that Miller took himself a trip.

In 2010 Miller took off on a ramble across the country that lead him to North Carolina where he lived, worked, and had the opportunity to learn from and play with some “old timers” of the genre. Among other musicians met and played with while traveling, Miller’s style has developed from studying old 78s and LPs found along the way through his hoboin’ the states. Along the road home, still working as a solo artist, Miller made a stop in his home state to self-record his first solo album, Blue Ridge Ramble, which he produced, designed, and hand pressed himself.

In the year after Miller’s return to Portland, the Crooners came together and began to develop their distinctive sound. Performing at various singer songwriter events around the city, Miller happened to meet Joy Pearson (vocals and kazoo) and Ben Bailey (percussion, washboard, kazoo, back-up vocals) at a mutual performance. The two had been performing together off and on for the past decade, mostly performing Pearson’s own material in a singer songwriter/alternative style. Her emotional, belting vocal style and Bailey’s versatility as a percussionist had made them a local success in their own right. Pearson is a trained vocal performer whose love of music is deeply tied to her growing up in Montana as a pastor’s daughter, and Bailey, who also developed his musical skills within church walls, has been singing, drumming and performing from a young age. Both brought a great deal of experience to the table and an enthusiasm for the style that Jacob Miller’s sound is rooted in.

The three felt an instant sense of camaraderie and after a few short months were performing together in various combinations; sometimes all three, or just Pearson and Miller, or Bailey and Miller. In the spring, six months or so after their initial meeting, the soon to be dubbed Crooners came together to record with Billy Bork in his studio “the Attic”. It was at this crucial point that Miller called on an old acquaintance from his previous stint in the Northwest, Kyle Neumann (harmonica, tenor banjo, slide guitar). Neumann and Miller had played together at a local old time Bluegrass jam on several occasions, and recorded together when Jacob produced Cliff Mitchell’s album, Country Folk ‘N Rag. Aware of his skill set, Miller called upon Neumann to fill out the Crooners sound. As an experienced harmonica and guitar/banjo player whose early exposure to music also came from a church background, he was primed and ready to step in time with the Crooner’s beat.

In epic fashion, befitting itself of a ragtime tune, they recorded the entire EP, East Side Drag, in one day and Bork had it mixed equally as quickly. Now a fully formed band, the Crooners, with Jacob at the helm, would continue to welcome success. They were invited to play at Seattle’s famous Northwest FolkLife Festival, their first major public performance which was received with enthusiasm.

Not long after, Bailey and Miller were able to complete a short busking tour through the southern United States as Bailey developed his washboard technique and both artists gleaned a good deal of inspiration from their stylistic motherland.

Upon returning home, with the Crooners united again, they began to fine tune their musical stylings. Over the next several months they continued to perform in the greater Portland area wh