Distance & Miles
'You don't know what you have here.' These are among the first bold words on 'Distance and Miles,' a debut album of startling honesty. The same words could be said about the album's singer-songwriter, Mikki Brisk. She's a secret she's largely kept to herself. The words match the direct and forthright stance she displays on the CD cover, both declaring herself to the world. She seduces with a voice as sweet as the sourwood honey of her native Georgia, equal parts crystalline pure and golden huskiness. A voice pollinated with heartfelt emotion and sweetened with experience. In that voice, you can soar to the heights of hopefulness and freedom, and plumb the depths of heartache and longing. With a stunning breadth in her writing style, with story songs and breakup songs, drinking songs and road songs, Mikki crafts lyrics that put one wholly in the mind of a heartbroken - but not broken - woman. Smothered with standout melodies and layered atmosphere like a healthy dose of southern gravy, many of the songs hew closely to the confessional and female empowerment messages of Shawn Colvin or Melissa Etheridge. As an artist, Mikki could most closely be compared to Mary Chapin Carpenter or Rosanne Cash. But instead of being the offspring of Johnny Cash, Mikki could be the bastard love child of Merle Haggard and Emmylou Harris. (To which she replies, 'I wish!') Produced by Los Angeles-based honky-tonk hero Chad Watson, and featuring some of the city's finest session musicians, 'Distance and Miles' makes good use of the typical instruments of folk and country music - acoustic guitar and bass, harmonica and accordion, mandolin, fiddle and pedal steel - but often in unexpected ways. With that voice and those words, all her own, she continues to declare and reveal herself, song by song, until the end of the record, with it's closing refrain, 'I go walking with my red boots on,' this time matching the CD's back cover. By then, you've been on a musical journey, of distance and miles, with a bright new guide star in the musical universe. Mikki Brisk is a poet first, a songwriter pure and true. What kind of music does she write? Alt-country, acoustic rock, contemporary folk - what some are starting to call Americana. But American might be a better description. Since it's birth, America has come to embrace it's character as a melting pot of people, styles and flavors. And the interesting thing is that, in addition to music, Mikki loves to cook. Maybe it's the Deep South in her, a food-based culture that runs in her blood. So it's probably no surprise that her music is a full-course meal. Mikki's music cooks. Start with a base stock of country and simmer with a dollop of folk for flavor. Chop up some off-Nashville alt-country and driving roots-rock. Spice with a dash of bayou, Southwest, and horns-tinged bluesy soul. Set oven to 'confessional female empowerment' and roast. Serve hot. All of her homes and travels have given Mikki a pretty good understanding of what the country has to offer. This understanding, these travels, inform her songs - from the opportunities offered and promise sought in 'The Last American,' to the Southwestern and Cajun inflections in 'Desert Song' and 'Me and Matthew.' A pure country weeper like 'We Don't Matter' can only come from her Georgia blood, and 'I Really Need' has the flavor of whiskey, true to the spirit of honky-tonk ballads of times gone by. There's maybe even a little Hollywood in the declaration of independence that is her closing song, 'Red Boots.' 'Distance and Miles' is more than simply the name of Mikki Brisk's debut CD, more than the literal lines on the map she's drawn as she moved around the country. It's a description of the creative and emotional journey she's taken to be able to tell her stories, to find her voice, and to put her heart and her soul on the line through her words and music.