Singer-songwriter Blake Mills is touring in support of his new album Heigh Ho out on Verve. The album is a showcase for Mills powerful country and blues guitar work and features several renowned musicians including Jim Keltner on drums, Jon Brion on keys and Don Was on bass (amongst others) plus Fiona Apple lending her voice to a couple of tracks. Perhaps it was because Apple was likely to appear (as she had on many other dates) that Mills’ two shows in New York (one at Le Poisson Rouge the week before this one) were sold out, but it would be unfair to suggest that Mills alone doesn’t deserve the attention. According to the NY Times, Mills has received praise from many artists, “Eric Clapton recently called him ‘the last guitarist I heard that I thought was phenomenal.’ The producer Don Was says he is ‘one of those rare musicians who come along once in a generation.'”and he’s played with many of them too. It’s worth checking out his headlining tour when you can to witness his guitar virtuosity.
In New York, Mills was backed up (in part) by his openers yMusic, the six-piece orchestral group that performs contemporary instrumental works (some composed by Nico Muhly or Sufjan Stevens ) and have performed with folks like My Brightest Diamond and Dirty Projectors. (You can purchase or stream their new album Balance Problems and their earlier work on their Bandcamp page here.) Their inventive performance was captivating and delightful, especially listening to the reverie of the (older) song “Beautiful Mechanical”.
Mills impressive performance began with Heigh Ho opener “Unworthy” and included a couple of country covers as well as songs from his 2010 debut, Break Mirrors. Apple joined him midway through the show for a few songs, like one of the album’s highlights “Seven”. Her vocals were only surpassed by Mills’ guitar work, and she enjoyed her spot on stage laughing with Mills at more than one point. When Apple departed the stage, Mills continued to treat the audience to his outstanding guitar work and a few stories. He and the band pushed on past midnight jamming out on two strong numbers, “Curable Disease” and “Tomorrow Night”, practically tearing the roof off the venue.
Blake Mills (w/ Fiona Apple):
Setlist (from printed stage setlist):
I’ll Never Do You Wrong (Joe Tex cover)
It’ll All Work Out
It’s Only Make Believe (Conway Twitty cover)
Don’t Tell Our Friends
Cry to Laugh
Before it fell
Under the Underground
Tomorrow Night (Lonnie Johnson / cover)