To get to the stunning 2-sided album release “Ocean and Earth” Parts 1+2, by virtuoso guitarist Nick Miller, you have to start from the beginning. To a time when a twelve year old boy picked up the guitar for the first time, and by the age of fifteen was getting paid to play in clubs. Rock, blues, jazz and soul all equally fitted into the young Australian’s repertoire, although the first on the list was his primary passion. At eighteen he was touring with the acclaimed Sydney group Simoriah, who were carving out a name for themselves in the Australian pub rock scene, and by 1999 Nick and the band were opening for headline acts such as Metallica and Deep Purple all over Europe.
Nick Miller went onto gaining a degree in Music performance and Music Business Management, and became a sought after session player appearing on many tracks for TV and Radio commercials. He also founded the Manly Music School in 2001, and over 10 years taught more than 1000 students, many who have become professional players themselves.
In 2009 Nick moved to the USA after joining the band Longreef as lead guitarist. The next six years saw the band touring throughout 46 states and releasing 3 albums, including 5 radio hits co-penned by Miller. In 2014, Nick released his first solo album, “Parallel Universe”, with mega producer/engineer Mike Fraser at the helm.
In 2015, with Longreef being on hiatus, Nick moved to Nashville TN, where he was picked up by Broken Bow Records/Sony ATV artist Adam Craig, who recruited him as lead guitarist. Which eventually brings us to the epic, and current “Ocean and Earth” album produced by Rich Chycki (Dream Theater). Part 1, or the “Ocean” side, traces Miller’s earlier musical heritage, while Part 2, or the “Earth” side, is inspired by the two years Miller has spent living in the musical melting pot of Nashville Tennessee.
Repeated listening to this two part album, revealed just how amazing Nick Miller is. He has total command of his instrument. This becomes obvious about two minutes into the opening track – “Into The Blue” – of “Ocean and Earth Part I”.
Moreover what is so striking about this particular album is the beauty of the music. Miller, as a composer, has few equals. His melodies and arrangements are far superior to most ‘instrumental’ guitar recordings. And that’s probably because Nick hates the term ‘instrumental’. In fact his guitar is equal to a lead singer in his songs.
You don’t have to play guitar to appreciate the music here, and his technique never overpowers the song. There are no missteps, not one bad song, not one unnecessary lick or shred. From the bone-crunching riffs and sweet, razor-sharp harmonic leads on “Touch The Horizon”, to the quieter, more reflective “New Tide”, and upbeat drive of “One Way Ride”, Nick Miller crafts a textbook of what can be done with six strings that may be hard to equal.
Sure, there are incredible records out there by artists who specialize in awe-inspiring technical virtuosity, but few are executed with as much taste, feeling and creativity, as “Ocean and Earth”. Miller’s work here shows an incredible scope and depth of musical vision.
The world is full of technical guitar heroes like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Paul Gilbert, but in my book we need some more guitarists like Steve Morse and Eric Johnson, which is where Nick Miller fits in, for me. The variety and accessible quality of Miller’s compositions is what sets him apart from other rock guitarists. There are only a few guitar virtuosi who combine such technical skill with such compositional talent.
The opening track on “Ocean and Earth Part II” – “Misty Bayou Spirit Love” confirms the aforementioned rule, as Miller branches into a different sonic dimension with a dominant banjo in the soundscape. Or even on “The Devil Named Sanchez”, where a distinct Latin flavor comes into play. In between there is the soul-searching and eloquent “Ja Nae Nae”, played with an almost Mark Knopfler-ish styled sensitivity, and then the album closer “Four Gypsies” with its rich, full-blooded six-string approach.
All-round, the album is filled with great writing where song and melody blend with incredible technique to create amazing music. If you are a guitar player, love the guitar as an instrument, or just want an opportunity to hear some fantastic music, this album is a “must have” for your collection.
“Ocean and Earth” is special in that it contains many moods and styles, and can be enjoyed by musicians and non-musicians alike, and is a perfect example of what can be spawned when a truly gifted guitarist simply plays from his heart.