Artist gives 'alternative' new meaning

By Noah Lopez

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Fans of Native American musician R. Carlos Nakai have a chance to broaden their musical horizons even further this Friday night, when multi-talented artist Bill Miller takes the stage at the Southwest Center for Music.

Like Nakai, Miller makes highly contemplative music steeped in Native American music tradition. And the music of both artists transcends the genres of international folk music, blurring the line that separates Native American music and other widely accepted music. But that is where the similarities between the two artists end.

On last year's critically-acclaimed release The Red Road, Miller successfully integrated his Mohican heritage with a progressive country sound, creating a sound unlike any other artist. Miller calls his hybrid music "alter-Native American," blending country with tribal chants and drumming, and a tinge of new age serenity.

The 38-year-old painter/sculptor/musician heightens the musical content of his songs even further with his extremely introspective songwriting. The Red Road is an examination of the Indian experience in America, ranging from highly personal reflections as "Reservation Road" and "My People" to evocative mood pieces like "Dreams of Wounded Knee" and "Native-Modern Suite."

On The Red Road, Miller's plaintive guitar strum is bolstered by a rich blend of instrumentation, ranging from sounds by acclaimed Indian flutist Robert Mirabal to the Smoky Town Singers a group of performers based on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Shawano, Wisconsin, which neighbors the reservation where Miller grew up.

Tomorrow night's show isn't the first time Bill Miller has played the barren state of Arizona either. He was one of more than a dozen American Indian musicians invited to open for Pearl Jam in 1993, a show where Pearl Jam's highbrow and open-minded audience booed Miller and the other artists off the stage. In his own element this time around, Miller should easily win over his audience here in Tucson.

Bill Miller will take the stage at the Southwest Center for Music tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Advance tickets go for $10 at Zip's, Piney Hollow, Hear's Music, and the Folk Shop. For more information, call 881-3947

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