Jane Baxter Miller Gets Her Twang Back | Bleader

Jane Baxter Miller Gets Her Twang Back



Jane Baxter Miller
  • Jane Baxter Miller
There’s a nice profile of Jane Baxter Miller in today’s Trib, but missing is any mention of the singer’s first Chicago band, the Texas Rubies. Though I sometimes found the Rubies, a duo with Kelly Kessler, a bit cutesy—the way they hammed up Guy Clark’s already hammy “Homegrown Tomatoes” made it hard to swallow—they deserve props for giving a contemporary, personal touch to old-school country years before audiences were clobbered with terms like “alt-country” or “insurgent country.”

The duo made one album, Working Girl Blues, in 1993, and ended up on the first Bloodshot compilation, For a Life of Sin, which came out in ’94. But by then Lower Links (their unofficial home) had closed and they’d called it a day. I wouldn’t necessarily say they were ahead of their time, but they definitely helped make country cool in Chicago—and there’s no question they did it out of love, since they never had much to show for their efforts.

During the aughts Miller fronted a sporadically active R & B-flavored band called Baxter with Ken Vandermark, husband Kent Kessler, and Tim Mulvenna, but Saturday night at the Hideout she celebrates the release of a new record where she’s back to doing what she does best: singing honky-tonk. On the terrific Harm Among the Willows (Durga Disk) she’s joined by a killer band—guitarist Grant Tye and drummer Gerald Dowd (both of Robbie Fulks’s band), keyboardist Chris Ligon, and her jazz-playing husband on bass—that provides simpatico settings for her twangy melodies and husky, malleable voice. Miller wrote all the songs save one by Kent Kessler, and though they use tried-and-true templates (“River of Ghosts” is a sort of folksy murder ballad, “Sweet Jesus” is jacked-up old-timey music, and “He’s on a Train” is a lilting acoustic waltz), she imbues them with plenty of her own personality.

Miller opens for Baby Alright.

photo: Joel Wanek