Review of Tell It To The Jukebox by Miller & Sasser

Miller & Sasser
Tell It To The Jukebox
(2017, Never Lucky)


There’s a small AM radio station north of Seattle that plays what I would define as classic country music — the hit songs I heard in my mother’s Ford Granada (no FM radio) back in the 70s and 80s. I wasn’t a huge fan of that music back then, but these days when my travels take me up that way, I love switching to that station because it offers such sonic relief and pure contrast from the same-sounding singers, songs and raunchy, computer-generated beats that populate country music radio today.

I get that same feeling of “ahhh” listening Tell It To The Jukebox, the new CD by the Portland-based country duo Miller & Sasser. Their music takes you back to the early 70s when the Charlies — Charley Pride and Charlie Rich — were dominating the charts with songs that went straight for the heart instead of the crotch. No bedazzled jeans here; just great songwriting, killer picking and some really, really fine singing.

The title cut — with its tight twin telecasters and vocal harmonies — tells of a love gone wrong from too much time in the honky tonk. “Lonesome Eyes” is a masterful demonstration of country melody executed with a terrific twangy mix of mandolin, acoustic and electric guitars. And the clever combination of guitars and the smooth vocal delivery of Chris Miller on “Way Out Of No Way” will take you right back to 1974.

More than simple nostalgia, the 10 original songs on Tell It To The Jukebox show how two talented country artists — Mr. Miller and his partner James Sasser — can use the old playbook and still deliver a sound that feels crisp and refreshing.

And if you close your eyes, you can imagine what the AM radio in my mom’s Granada sounded like during country music’s Golden Era.

Podcast Trio Bravo:

Listen to “Tell It To The Jukebox”:  Tell It To The Jukebox

Listen to “Way Out Of No Way”:  Way Out Of No Way

Listen to “Lonesome Eyes”:  Lonesome Eyes

To download or purchase a copy of “Tell It To The Jukebox,” visit Miller & Sasser’s page at Bandcamp. Miller & Sasser will be performing live at the Laurelthirst Public House in Portland on Friday, Nov. 10 with Matty Charles + Katie Rose. Visit the Miller & Sasser website for more info.

Episode #20 featuring Miller & Sasser


Chris Miller (left) and James Sasser

Episode #20 Miller & Sasser

We invited the A-team into The Helm for our latest episode, and boy oh boy did they ever deliver.

First up was our pal Kip from Secret Aardvark Trading Company, who arrived for the start of the show with a hankerin’ thirst and a re-up of habanero sauce, the gift we share with our musical guests. As Eric says early in the show, Kip is family and it sure was a blast having him as an audience of one for this week’s show. Not only is he great company, but he shares a cool story about how he met the great country singer Emily Herring and came to play in her band, providing a terrific intro for her song “Your Mistake.”

Things just kept getting better with the arrival of Chris Miller and James Sasser, the dynamite local country duo who stopped by for an interview and live performance. Miller & Sasser came straight from their weekly happy hour gig at The Landmark Saloon here in Portland and shared some stories from their recent travels to California and Texas, as well as some history of how they met and how our own Mike Lee played an integral role in launching their partnership.

These fellas a first-rate gentlemen and performers, and one listen to their original song “Step By Step” will give you a good idea of just how good these guys are. When it comes to country singers in Portland, it just doesn’t get any better than James Sasser. And for guitar pickers, Chris Miller’s track record speaks for itself. He’s been playing for years as a sideman with some of the bigger names in alt-country (most notably with Dave Alvin) and is a member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. We feel super blessed to have these fine gents in The Helm and are pleased as all get out to share this special interview and performance.

Episode #20 also features some fine music from more of our favorites, including Neko Case, John Moreland, local boys Riviera and the red-hot Lydia Loveless. We also have a fantastic Trio Bravo from super listener Will Ginsler, who’s been one of the podcast’s top advocates. Thanks, Will, for the great support and also for the kick-ass three-song collection you selected.

Lots to chew on this week, so let’s get started, shall we? Here’s the playlist for Episode #20.

Stars & Gutters, Two Cow Garage
Shit Shots Count, Drive-By Truckers
Tennessee, Johnny Cash
All My Friends Are Crazy, 500 Miles To Memphis
Things That Scare Me, Neko Case
Break My Heart Sweetly, John Moreland
Hurricane, Possessed By Paul James
Trio Bravo by Will Ginsler
Satan And St. Paul, John Fulbright
For The Turnstiles, Neil Young
Cocaine and Ashes, Son Volt
Your Mistake, Emily Herring
Honky Tonkers Don’t Cry, Dale Watson
Interview with Miller & Sasser
Step By Step (Live In The Helm), Miller & Sasser
Tell It To The Jukebox (Live In The Helm), Miller & Sasser
When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You) (Live In The Helm), Miller & Sasser
Cavalier, Shovels & Rope
Little Ways, Dwight Yoakam
Hopeless, Riviera
I Hope He Breaks Your Heart, American Aquarium
Let’s Just Be Friends For Tonight, Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers
The Very Best, The Harmed Brothers
The Very Best, The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit
Cigarettes & Truckstops, Lindi Ortega
Kit Kat Clock, Bottle Rockets
Head, Lydia Loveless
Bar Lights, Root Jack