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Rogue Sounds: Leo Miller’s ‘Too Stagnant’ Moves Beyond Open Mic

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leomillerFunky acoustic guitar players are a dime a dozen. What’s a little rarer is doing it well, moving from the act at open mic you politely endure to a performance that stands on its own. It’s the latter you hear on Ashland-based Leo Miller’s new EP, Too Stagnant.

The collection has six songs in the blues/lounge vein with lightly funky backbeats and percussive barrages of vocals in Miller’s soulful croon. You can hear elements of Jack Johnston and Jamaraquoi in the funky tracks, and hints of reggae in his lyrical style.

The EP’s opening, “Breath of the Earth,” is dreamy beat based around a series of harmonic loops. It is an intrigueing riff. But it doesn’t carry the whole song.

The second track is where the EP really kicks off, with “Hard Times,” a funky number that could probably pass for a Johnny Lang tune.

The 3rd cut is a lower-fi track, with a lagging beat. Those two elements give it more of a classic soul vibe. That is highlighted by the song’s backbone being a simple shuffle back and forth between two chords. Its songiness comes from the constantly evolving melody and rhythmic accents on the vocals, as well as the flourishes of phased guitar. Together that keeps the song moving.

The fourth tune, “Something Nice,” is booty-shaker, with a swung beat and a buzzy low end. Miller’s fuzzy solo rocks and the backbeart rolls. It’s a nice combo.

The final tune, “Just Do Something,” leans deeper into hip hop, with a jazzy riff beneath rapped lyrics. It flows and it funks, but its hook could be a hookier.

Looking back at the Too Stagnant EP in totality, I want it to have horns or piano, a little something extra. It works as it is, but could pop so much more. It stands apart from the legions of folks trodding similar ground with good timing and songcraft, but doesn’t quite stick in your head the way great soul tunes can, relegating it music that works a little better for background vibe than as a single.

Leo Miller’s Too Stagnanti is available for download on Bandcamp.


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