“Getting more horsepower out of the blues genre” is how Mohawk singer-guitarist Derek Miller described his fourth and newest album, “Derek Miller with Double Trouble”, before his recent Montreal show at Pub de la Place on June 3.
Miller was in town to headline a concert showcasing the depth of Aboriginal musical talent from near and far. Opening for Miller were Cree rapper Daybi, Mohawk folk-rock singer Thomas Doubting and local singer-songwriter Bilal Butt.
But the opposite can be said – Miller isn’t getting more out of blues, he’s actually supercharging the blues genre. The new album is a culmination of numerous influences from the golden ages of blues, soul, rock and country that have inspired Miller, including Led Zeppelin and rock-n-roll guitarist Link Wray.
The first single off the album is “Damned If You Do” and features legend Willie Nelson who performs a duet with Miller. Collaborating with Nelson, Miller learned the aging country singer is quite the avid golfer along with other things.
Boasting 12 tracks, the album reflects a bygone era of 1950s rock infused with modern elements, which can hit listeners with both nostalgia as well as discovery.
Link Wray is a major influence in Miller’s works because of the raw energy that came from being a First Nations artist during the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time that wasn’t so conducive to artistic expression and uniqueness. But it was the result of that which pushed Wray to experiment with his sound and take rock-n-roll to where it is today.
For Miller, music has always been a healing tool, a “medicine for the mind and soul”, which has helped him evolve as an artist. Straddling close to the edge and experimenting with new sounds, Miller continues the tradition Wray blazed with his distorted guitar sounds and melodic riffs.
When it comes to advice for young artists, Miller said, “Making music isn’t meant to be a paint-by-numbers experience. It’s about self-discovery where one can explore your own creativity.” And there is no limit to creativity once that fuse is lit as long as there is passion.
The most important thing is to express yourself creatively through art in whatever form because it is the best medicine for the soul and improves the self-esteem. But it is not just in music that that there can be growth; Miller spoke of his interests in learning about architecture as well as his hobbies, such as racing cars.
The show opened with Bilal Butt, the afternoon host of the Butt Show on CHOM 97.7 FM, who performed songs from his new self-titled album, like the blues-inspired “Why You So Rude?”, followed by “Ophelia” and “Jellybean”.
There were plenty of beats being dropped by Daybi, who put on an epic freestyle act with his crew. Following him was Thomas Doubting, a 21-year-old folk-rock-blues singer from Kahnawake, whose soulful yet powerful songs displayed the range of his musical talent and potential. Doubting got started in music at a young age inspired by punk and metal but as he grew musically he branched off into more blues and folk as was heard in his songs.
There was a slight hitch to the evening due to the ongoing Montreal street protests taking place nearby with police cars and angry students all over the area around Berri-UQAM métro station.
After the protests died down, the audience members started to arrive and by the time Miller hit the stage, the pub was packed. However, event organizer Derek Delaronde of AK-47 Entertainment said because of the protests a good many Kahnawake residents were unable to attend the show.
Music is a growing experience and with his newest album, Miller has shown how artistically he can be influenced by the past as well as bravely venture into uncharted musical territory.