Chris Daniels and Hazel Miller team up for new album
A year ago, singer and guitarist Chris Daniels was invited to play a virtual benefit for the Inner City Health Center, which provides health and wellness to underserved populations in Denver and the surrounding metro area. But instead of bringing in his eight-piece band the Kings he has led since 1984, he recruited Hazel Miller, a powerful blues and soul singer, who has performed statewide for more than three decades, and his longtime keyboardist Dana Marsh.
Five of the songs the trio played during this benefit appear on the new album What we have done, which will be released digitally on July 2 and physically on July 23. Daniels, who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2013, says the album’s nickname refers to what Miller said after hearing the raw mixes of those songs and said, “Look what we’ve got. made!” It also answers the ubiquitous 2021 question: “What did you do during the pandemic?”
Miller plays both acoustic and electric guitars, and Marsh plays keyboards. Other heavy hitters contributed to the album, including Big Head Todd & the Monsters’ Todd Park Mohr, with whom Miller has toured for the past two decades; bassist Victor Wooten; mandolinist Sam Bush; Leftover Salmon bassist Greg Garrison; Freddi Gowdy of the Freddi Henchi Band; and eTown House drummer Christian Teele. The album also features bassist Kenny Passarelli and other Colorado musicians Tom Capek on the Hammond B3 with Mark Oblinger and Linda Lawson adding backing vocals.
What we have done, which consists of seven covers and three originals, opens with the 1976 Doobie Brothers hit, “Takin ‘It to the Streets”. Daniels asked Miller to replace the word “sister” with “brother” in the first line of the song.
“I always thought it was a boy’s song,” Daniels says. “I like the idea that the first line is, ‘You don’t know me, but I’m your sister,’ because it really broadens the scope of the good old Michael McDonald track.
Daniels says that legendary bluesman Albert King’s version of “Born Under a Bad Sign” was very macho, “you know, I was born under a bad sign and I’m badass. For style, Daniels and Miller turned to a 2011 Tiny Desk Concert performance by the song’s original composer, Booker T. Jones.
“Booker T. did it with ‘I was born under a bad sign, and it sucks,’” Daniels says. ” It is not a good thing. I just like the honesty of it.
Mohr digs during guitar solos on ZZ Hill’s “Born Under a Bad Sign” and “Down Home Blues”.
“He’s really good,” Daniels says of Mohr. “I would say one of the best blues guitarists around. It has the sense of Eric Clapton, but it’s a lot more raw, and it’s just fun.
Elsewhere on the album, Daniels, Miller and company also perform interpretations of Irving Berlin’s standard swing “Cheek to Cheek”, the Carole King / James Taylor ballad “You’ve Got a Friend” and “What a Wonderful World” , made famous by Louis Armstrong. Miller’s voice soars on Al Jarreau’s “Could You Believe” tinged with gospel music.
Daniels says “I’m Still Lookin ‘” was the first song he wrote for Miller, but instead of being funky and bluesy like on his album of the same name, this time around they gave it more a bossa nova feeling a la Antonio Carlos Jobim.
The album was really born out of Daniels’ joy singing with Miller, something they’ve done every now and then since Daniels first invited her on stage at a blues festival in the mid-years. 80, shortly after moving from Louisville, Kentucky to Colorado. .
“She was sitting backstage,” Daniels says, “I heard her sing backstage, and I said, ‘Come here and sing.’ So she went out and joined us, Al Cooper and David Bromberg and myself and the Kings.
At What we have done, Miller and Daniels cover a version of “Stealin ‘Candy”, which was the first duet they ever sang together. While Daniels and Miller each have their own large groups, he says they could continue to perform together as a trio or quartet.
“It’s a lot easier than touring with a group of seven or eight musicians, which she and I both hang out,” Daniels says. “Our hope is that we can go out and do things all over the country where we can fly three or four and just perform.
“There are expectations for Hazel Miller and the Collective or Chris Daniels and the Kings,” Daniels says. “My fans want to hear ‘I Like Your Shoes’ and Hazel’s fans want to hear the songs that are her signature tracks.”
While they may be working on new material for their little band, during the pandemic Daniels wrote enough material for a solo and another Kings album.
“I mean, you can only watch a certain amount of Netflix,” Daniels jokes.
For more information, visit Chris Daniels online.
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