Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
arker Millsap could not be accused of rushing when it came to dropping his meaty, new "The Very Last Day," his third release. The Okie finished recording one year ago, but the disc only saw the light of day in late March. Not only was the wait worth it when it came to the product, but also fleshing it out live.
Millsap delivered the goods on all fronts in drawing a near full-house of about 200 at the small, intimate club.
Millsap occupies a sound that is singer/songwriter/Americana. But one needn't be so genre specific when it comes to Millsap because he straddled a few of them (blues, country, neo-folk) with equal ease.
The key to Millsap, who moved to Nashville about a year ago, is his song craft. Quite simply, he has a lot of A-list songs. A good chunk of them have clear religious themes to them.
Millsap grew up in Pentecostal household, and the religion touchstone is not very far away in his music. Perhaps the most emotional, touching song in his repertoire remains "Heaven Sent," about a gay friend, who asks his father, "Daddy, you're the one that claimed/that he'd love me through the flame/Now why can't you do the same/I've been born again/But I first was born in sin/Did you love me then?"
Tough lyrics and sentiments, and Millsap wasn't afraid to tackle such weighty subjects.
He goes for a lighter approach in one of his most popular songs, "Truck Stop Gospel," about a Bible believing trucker, who wants to spread the Word.
Millsap has a bit of a sandpapery voice, which worked to his advantage when dealing with his subject matters. He kept the sound on the simpler side playing acoustic, while childhood friend Michael Rose manned upright bass and long-haired and bearded fiddler Daniel Foulks added his musical mettle. Millsap tossed in a bit of slide (the Rev. Gary Davis and Fred McDowell blues of "You Gotta Move") and harp on several songs, changing it up. This trio meshed well together without the music eviscerating the singing and lyrics.
Despite the far-reaching material, Millsap wasn't the ultra serious soul up on stage. He connected well with the crowd - a tight setting helped. He took a request for "At the Bar (Emerald City Blues)," despite saying he often forgets the words. He lived up to his fear by twice needing to resort to "Mmmm" to get through a few words, but it sure sounded good anyway.
At only 23, Millsap ably demonstrated he is the complete package - lots of quality, well-constructed songs that say something, a voice that infused the emotion of the material, stylistic diversity and a warm personality, not to mention good looks (he recalled a young Leonardo DiCaprio). It's no surprise his career is on the rise.
Caroline Rose opened by largely ignoring her 2014 debut, "I Will Not Be Afraid," and playing a batch of new songs. Rose, who lives in Vermont, opined that the goal was to see which songs worked live for a recording that she jokingly said should be out in time for the 2020 presidential election.
On "I Will Not Be Afraid," Rose opted for a bit of a throwback rockabilly sound. That largely vanished on the new material. Rose, who has a good sense of humor, sang well enough, but the material was adequate, not as strong as that on "Afraid." On the fast-paced opener (title unsure, but perhaps "Put on the Bikini and Dance"), the music overwhelmed the simplicity of the lyrics. Rose went back to her roots by closing with the fast-paced "Yip Yip Yow." More of that would have been welcome.