Green Mountain Saturday Night is the debut solo album by Vermont musician Lance Mills, who first entered the music scene in 1979 with the Odell Walker Band before taking a decade-long break. Since then, Mills has been performing live with the Screwtops and Hi-Way 5.
Mills is heavily immersed in blues, swamp rock, country, roadhouse rock, folk, Americana, country rock, and various genre combinations. He describes this release as "a concept album where we start the night with the promise of youth and finish by tucking two little children into bed... forever." Themes include joy, love, murder, betrayal, ghosts, moonshining, and inspiration. Musically, Mills has been compared to early acoustic Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Gene Vincent, ZZ Top, and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Recording and mixing were done by Vincent Freeman at the Underground in Vermont, with mastering by Michel Doucet at Mitch-Studio. Mills is proud to have used lots of vintage gear during the sessions, including a 1970s rotating Leslie speaker (think George Harrison!). Mills had a virtual army of backing musicians, all listed on his Bandcamp page.
"Hi-Way 5 Drive In Saturday Night" is described by the artist as "a rockabilly song about going to the drive-in movies on a Vermont summertime Saturday night." I hear it as a classic rock and roll boogie with lots of fun doo-wops in the background. Before I realized Mills has a band called Hi-Way 5, I thought he was singing about our Highway 5 here in California, but the fun is truly universal. All the players are having a blast, including an old-timey piano player.
"Lordy Lordy" features a lively lead fiddle not unlike "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," and the subject matter isn't too far off either! Similarly, "Old Number 13" is a classic blues grinder in the tradition of Muddy’s "I’m A Man" (and countless others, frankly!). The mournful harmonica is a standout here, as well it should be: "Old Number 13" refers to the 13th grave to be dug on that cemetery hill, to be filled by your humble narrator. "I Let Her Fall" is a country lament bathed in luscious, ringing pedal steel. Not sure if I’ve mentioned Mills’ voice yet, but it’s a smooth tenor perfect for these kinds of songs without a trace of smoker’s grit. "When Sarah Dances" showcases a more intimate side of Mill’s sound, with a spoken intro, gentle acoustic guitar, and a quiet cello. Even the lyrics are more spare, heartfelt, and surprising: "When Sarah dances / Our hearts dance with her / A ballerina / A clubfoot."
"Benny’s Silvertone" has a construction quite similar to Creedence, especially "Born On The Bayou." This kind of swampy rock seems to come to Mills naturally. "West Fairlee Falcon" takes Mills back to more of a singing narrator role. I’m sure he’s not really talking about a bird, but the chorus of “West… Fair-lee Falcon” has an irresistible rhythm. "Rope Tow Boogie" is a four-on-the-floor rocker where Mills comes up with yet another catchy phrase to sing. He could probably get a job just thinking up cool titles! Aggressively cool lead playing on this one, especially toward the end.
"Jessie’s Song" is the perfect closer but also very sad and heartfelt. Mills says, “it’s a ballad about two little children (my grandfather’s brother and sister) who died over a hundred years ago.” It almost sounds like they got mercury poisoning from drinking well water, but the how and why are less important than the deep emotions this song stirs up.
Overall, this is a diverse collection with both familiar-sounding tunes and true originals, surely worth a visit!
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