Deep End Sessions Vol 2:  Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller (July 2015)

Deep End Sessions Vol 2: Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller (July 2015)

Located about an hour North of Los Angeles in the Santa Clara River Valley sits a sprawling ranch where music is made in a soothing environment surrounded by blooming citrus trees. Traditional American roots masters Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller found themselves in this relaxing oasis, invited for a residency in January 2015. Their up-close and intimate recording session there became Volume Two of an innovative new series of recordings from The Deep End Ranch. The ranch dates to the early 1900s, and was resurrected by renowned visual artists David Bunn and Ellen Birrell - who, after twenty-five years of living in Los Angeles, decided “Deep End” was just too special a find to pass up. With its close proximity to LA, it could serve as both a tonic escape for weary urbanites longing for a country respite, and an adjacent urban dose of old California that still retained a close tie to the city. David decided to start an unamplified, unadvertised house concert series focusing on Southern Appalachian traditional artists, which organically grew into an ongoing recording project reflecting the intimacy of the ranch’s living room shows. After a few days of unwinding from the road and relaxing on the ranch, singers and multi-instrumentalists Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller put on a stunning house concert to about seventy lucky listeners. Over the course of the following week, the duo set up in front of a pair of microphones in the living room, playing and singing the tunes they had brought all the way from West Virginia. What emerged was an honest and powerfully nuanced expression of Appalachian roots music, captured with minimal production and reminiscent of the best early field recordings. This type of setting demands the utmost from artists, and Jesse and Emily were clearly up to the task. On this recording one can hear two absolute masters who have great respect for tradition, but bring a new vibrancy of life to every note they play and sing.

Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller literally have music in their DNA, both having been immersed in Appalachian tradition since they were toddlers. "We played a lot of music around the house when I was a kid,” Emily says. “The whole social scene during my childhood revolved around music too.” Her parents being traveling journalists, Emily’s family found themselves living and playing music in Chicago, Toronto, Hong Kong and Vermont. "I got hooked on playing at a pretty young age." Emily has since made a name for herself as one of the best young traditional roots musicians and has appeared as a solo artist on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. Jesse also had an upbringing in which music was a central focus, being raised in a local music community in West Virginia. "I spent a lot of time going to square dances and Old Time music festivals with my parents when I was a kid. It seemed like every adult I knew played music, so I always imagined I would play music someday." The adult mentors Jesse references include master fiddlers Melvin Wine and Ernie Carpenter plus Jesse’s dad, fiddler, documentarian, folklorist and author, Gerry Milnes. Jesse played in local string bands until he and Emily help form the Sweetback Sisters in 2006. After signing to the Signature Sounds imprint, touring the world, and producing three full length albums and two EPs with the band, Jesse and Emily found themselves performing as a duo – a course which developed naturally at home in their living room in West Virginia. Now focused on intimate music-making within community, Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller’s Deep End Session represents their first recording as a duo - and what a window into their world it captures! Masterful vocal harmonies, Jesse’s unique fingerstyle guitar, Emily’s driving rhythm guitar and both their seasoned fiddles results in a sound that is just right for moving the furniture out of the way and dancing in the living room.

In a world where technology and consumerism have made us increasingly distant from each other and our communities - it's all the more important to have something that touches the strength and depth of the human condition. The music of Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller, and indeed the Deep End Sessions as a whole, depicts people in a room making music together. There's a reason this music has lasted so long. This music is not a trend, a fad or a fashion - and make no mistake; this music isn’t retro or vintage in any way. It’s timeless. A couple of friends, some tunes, the enjoyment of each others company, and some home cooked food on the stove - these are the simple things represented on these recordings, and they’re why this recording and other recordings from the Deep End Sessions sound so vital and alive.



What's happening at the Deep End Ranch represents more than just fine, honest roots music; it represents an entire social movement. In a world where detachment from community can be seen as one of the causes of society's ills, the Deep End Sessions represent a step towards creating a vibrant community around traditional music and arts. Its creator, David Bunn, grew up in central North Carolina where he was exposed at an early age to Appalachian string band music, Piedmont blues and bluegrass. He played rhythm guitar in old time string bands and was exposed not only to the music of the region, but to the social gatherings and community that came along with it. After many years in Los Angeles making his mark on the art world, David and his wife Ellen were ready for a break. About ten years ago, they bought the ranch with ideas of hosting a residency program for visual artists. A few years ago, they decided to open up the program to musicians, inviting fiddler Aarun Carter and guitarist Jonathan Trawick to stay at the ranch. The living room recording of Carter and Trawick was released as Volume One of the Deep End Sesssions and sparked the start of a series that brought intimate recordings and house concerts together at Deep End Ranch. 

Deep End Sessions:
Volume One – Aarun Carter & Jonathan Trawick
Volume Two – Jesse Milnes & Emily Miller

Coming up next: 
Volume Three: Ben Townsend (Renowned West Virginia banjo player)
Joined by 12 Friends, some of the best old-time musicians from LA 
Volume Four: The Stuart Brothers, Sabra Guzmán & Riley Baugus 
    (Three of the greatest living Appalachian old-time musicians)

If you listen to the recordings of the Deep End Sessions, you'll find a consistency of quality, depth and musicianship as well as a connection to a time before cell phones and MP3s, when music was made by real people, with real instruments, at home for friends, family and community. You can hear it in every note of each of these recordings.