I am acquainted with Robert Miller’s music through his band Project Grand Slam. The extended outfit has made waves for a number of years now on the back of five star album releases featuring compelling originals alongside occasional imaginative covers and well-received live appearances throughout the world. Miller’s exceptional bass playing is among the best today, any genre, and he consistently surrounds himself with a supporting cast of able musicians and vocalists who share the same creative ambitions.
The single “You Can’t Tell the Truth” finds Miller breaking away from Project Grand Slam and making his first foray as a solo artist. This move doesn’t reflect any on his desire to continue the band; the single and its accompanying album Summer of Love grew, instead, out of the COVID-19 pandemic that has overturned the world order in 2020. When lockdowns descended and numerous industries, including the music world, shuttered their windows, Project Grand Slam’s plans for their year went belly up.
MORE ON PROJECT GRAND SLAM: https://www.facebook.com/projectgrandslam/
Miller began writing. Despite previous experience adding harmony vocals to earlier Project Grand Slam releases, Miller had never felt sufficiently confident to assume lead vocal duties. The pandemic, in some ways, forced his hand. He never sounds like he’s working outside of his comfort zone, however, and brings abundant personality to this single release. Some listeners might prefer a more straight-ahead vocal free from production effects, but Miller is nonetheless effective in this new role.
The band’s approach is compositional. Though individual musicians drop in personal touches throughout the song, there’s never any sense of the players pandering for the spotlight. Miller’s work, here and elsewhere, is invariably free from such virtuoso trips despite the obvious talent of the participants. They play to the song rather than attempting to impress listeners with their skill and it helps focus the overall musical attack.
It has a jumpy commercial sound. The evident talent of the contributors notwithstanding, “You Can’t Tell the Truth” has surprising mainstream appeal, particularly in an election year given its pointed yet not pointed lyrics. Any conscious human being will have an idea who the “you” is in this song, but it’s really a number of “you” figures I think rather than a central boogeyman.
I enjoyed the guitar work laden throughout the cut and the drumming is top notch. Producers Baden Goyo and Lou Holtzman worked with Miller to incorporate contributions from Project Grand Slam members into this track and, as always, they complement Miller’s goals well. Even with the technology we possess today, piecing a performance together from disparate sources requires a steady hand and attentive ear. These are qualities that help separate Miller’s output from many other contemporaries and peers — his attention to detail as a co-producer, player, songwriter, and now singer.
“You Can’t Tell the Truth” may have ongoing relevance. It’s a canny move to refrain from being too specific lyrically about the object of your scorn. Its open-endedness allows you, as well, to apply the track to a wider variety of situations than you might at first assume. It’s an important mile marker, to be sure, in Robert Miller’s long musical journey and we’ll have to see where it takes him from here.