Minnesota Americana band Six Mile Grove are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year with the release of their eighth album, Million Birds. The release show is this Saturday, January 26th, at the Hook and Ladder.
If you don’t know them, Million Birds is a great place to start, as it may be their best album. Their sound channels the Jayhawks, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty without sounding like a copy of any of them. They also have a more authentic feel than most current faces of Americana (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, etc.).
Million Birds shows the maturity of the band’s songwriting.
Melodies are strong, the songs are catchy and engaging, and their lyrics are far better than most of their peers. Instead of focusing in a self-absorbed way on their own personal issues, or limiting themselves by getting political, they focus on the bigger-picture ideas and feelings of normal people. They do this with the perfect combination straightforwardness and subtlety.
For example, “Shame on Us” discusses big issues but doesn’t narrowcast. Musically it’s a highlight as well, starting out heavy before settling into a pedal steel-led ballad. “Wage a War” wonders when surrendering is the best option, in a relationship or otherwise (“Hard to wage a war/when there’s no way I can win”).
The complexity of relationships is covered with honesty in “Shot in the Arm” (not a Wilco cover), “Money Doesn’t Matter” wonders if that’s true, and album closer “Goodbye to Loneliness” has a good, subtle message of making positive changes…maybe.
Like Six Mile Grove’s other albums, the sound of Million Birds is authentically Americana.
Well-executed harmonies, subtle pedal steel, and layers of acoustic and electric guitars keep it sonically interesting. The songs range from slow ballads (“Damned if I Do,” “Shame on Us”) to laid back mid-tempo country/rock (“Early Morning Rain,” “Not My Fault”) to all-out rock (“Shot in the Arm”). The maturity of their songwriting is most apparent on tremolo guitar-led, Matthew Ryan co-write “Patrol Cars.”
Six Mile Grove is one of the best Americana bands in Minnesota. Million Birds is only the latest example of that. Be sure to check out their show on Saturday at the Hook and Ladder.