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Thursday, July 22, 2010 01:02 am

Chris Miller’s in town

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Let me take you all back a few years (how about roughly 25 or so?) to revisit an interesting time in Springfield’s live music history when several unique music venues operated in the area. Most near and dear to my heart were Crow’s Mill School and the Romany Club. Crow’s Mill, on Toronto Road, is a story all its own, while the Romany Club, situated in half (or less) of the space now taken by Celtic Mist Pub near Seventh and Adams, hosted its fair share of eclectic music talents as well. Among them was a young and talented singing songwriter and accomplished guitarist named Chris Miller.

Miller fashioned songs in a voice akin to a 60s-style Bob Dylan, with chord progressions that would make Hoagy Carmichael smile, and lyrics from a poet’s perspective. He picked on a wonderful Martin guitar and played with the likes of Mark Mathewson, David Landreth, Hobo Coble, Catfish Evans, Joe Dawkins and many others around town. Originally off the family farm near Latham, Miller lived in Decatur some, hung out in Springfield awhile, then moved to the Twin Cities for several years, always playing and picking, writing and singing, recording and performing.

A few years ago he made a move to Nashville, Tenn., settling in with other central Illinois expatriates such as Keith Harden and Ty Brando to explore the many musical machinations of Music City, USA. Nashville success is measured in various ways, from selling million dollar songs to hanging with some of the best musicians in the world or just being there in the middle of it all. Miller plays steady in the area, no small feat in Nashville by the way, and scored shows at the Bluebird Café, easily considered one of the premier songwriter performance venues in the world.

It’s our good fortune to have the traveling troubadour performing in Springfield on Tuesday, July 27, from noon to 1 p.m. for the Acoustic Lunch at the Trout Lily Café hosted by Kate Hawkes, Miller’s longtime friend and proprietor of the downtown coffee shop and lunch spot. He then heads to the venerable Norb Andy’s for an evening performance from 9 p.m. to midnight. Both shows are scheduled as solo acoustic gigs, but knowing Miller’s multi-instrumentalist capabilities and the players he’s played with in town, it’s hard to imagine friends not sitting in for a picking party. For music blips and video clips visit Chris online at www.myspace.com/chrismillerprairiesphynxmusic and send a howdy and hey while you’re there. Welcome back Chris, and if I may speak for many others in Springfield, please return more often, your friends and fans miss you and your music.

The Walnut Street Winery in Rochester hosts Trillium on Sunday, July 25, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in their gorgeous wine garden. The Chicago-area quartet describes themselves as an “acoustic folk group with an eclectic repertoire ranging from Celtic to ragtime to bluegrass” and that description itself should encourage musical adventurers into venturing out. The professionally prepared band hosts a nice Web presence (www.trilliumtheband.com) allowing those of us unfamiliar with the group to discover the treasure trove of music this band presents through the immediacy of going online, enticing a live show visit.

Lastly, but first on my mind, I apologize to Eric Taylor and Susan Linsfor Taylor of Blue Ruby Music for my insensitive comments two weeks ago in Now Playing concerning Eric’s recent concert cancellation. My flippant words completely missed the mark on his life-threatening condition. The emergency triple bypass heart surgery saved the life of one of America’s finest songwriters and soon we can expect more compelling music from this compassionate and brilliant soul. I send out best wishes for a speedy and healthful recovery from fans and friends in central Illinois.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com

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