Tom Faia and Kate Miller is an Americana duo who’ve just released their new album titled Risk It All For Love. The recording band consists of Tom Faia (vocals/acoustic guitar/harmonica), Kate Miller (vocals), Jesse Diaz (bass) and Vince Sanchez (drums/percussion/production).
Faia and Miller have previously recorded three CD’s together, the most recent of which burned up the Americana and Country charts for the past 10 months. Tom Faia himself has a long and storied musical past, having released several singles, worked with the famous “Wrecking Crew” and written songs in Nashville for A&M publishing. His tunes have been recorded by Barbara Mandrel and Dobie Gray, among others. Kate Miller was a well-regarded singer in bands throughout the Monterey Bay Area. As a duo, Faia and Miller now perform regularly up and down California’s central coast.
For this new batch of songs, the duo says they pretty much followed their previous template (Americana, country and roots rock) while stretching out a bit rhythmically. Faia’s songs tend to focus on relationships, and the inherent humor in the battle of the sexes. After first hearing this album I’d immediately point to Geoff and Maria Muldaur or Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks as reference points. Recording took place at the Santa Cruz studio of Vince Sanchez, and also at Tom’s home studio. Mixing was by Sanchez in Scalea, Italy.
“Gonna Woo My Baby Tonight” gets right into the good times with a bluesy acoustic clap-along. Faia’s songwriting style is old fashioned in the sense that he spins humorous stories with his lyrics rhyming perfectly. Occasionally you might be able to predict his next line, but once you’ve heard it you can totally enjoy his wit and skill. These are not songs that need to be analyzed; their meanings are clear by the fourth stanza, and it’s a nice change to hear old-style songs where the intent is immediately clear. This one is a humorous ditty about a date night and all the prep our hero goes through before his gal arrives. Faia takes a honkin’ harmonica solo and Miller supplies sweet harmonies.
“Risk It All For Love” shifts into a minor key with lush harmony vocals that recall the late ‘60s (I specifically thought of “Laugh Laugh” by The Beau Brummels, especially with the harmonica). This is the kind of song that illustrates Faia’s songwriting bona fides quite nicely. “The Frog Song” is a fun track right from the title. It has a jumpy calypso beat and engaging acoustic guitar melodies, over which Faia compares himself to “a frog on my knees / I’m no White Knight fantasy / So jump on my lilly, Baby / Swim with me.”
“Pound My Heart Against The Wall” is the first song where Miller takes the lead vocal. While Faia has a good voice, he tends to sing more as a character while Miller’s pipes recall the finest folk-country singers, from June Carter Cash to Mary Chapin Carpenter. Faia seems to rise to the vocal occasion for Miller’s tracks, and his sweet harmonica is never far away. “I Don’t Really Know Why My Baby Loves Me” has a swampy riff with fun harmonies that reminded me of “Boogaloo Jones” by Dan Hicks. The rhymes here might be predictable but you still can’t help but smile with each coupling (“Some say I’m lazy / Lord knows I’m crazy…”).
“Keep My Eyes Wide Open” is like a funny version of Todd Rundgren’s “We Gotta Get You A Woman” where a guy with absolutely no luck with girls gets help from his only slightly-more-worldly pal. This is one of the funniest songs, though maybe that’s because I relate to lyrical content! Growling, down-home harmonica helps sell the track. “Bad Boy” has a simple but catchy major 7th riff and returns Miller to the front microphone for a terrific solo performance. At this point Faia has basically turned into a living and breathing acoustic guitar and harmonica. Kudos also to the rhythm section of Jesse Diaz and Vince Sanchez, who’ve been nailing these backings without a care since the start.
In “You Give Me Love” Faia drops the humor just for a moment to sing sincerely about the woman he loves, with achingly sweet Miller second lead and harmony vocals. Faia proves he’s not a one-trick pony, creating a heartfelt love song with an irresistible back-and-forth dialogue between man and woman. The key change toward the end is unexpected but perfect. But let’s not get too serious: Faia ends the collection with a song about “My Little Pal Mac” who “thinks he’s a dog but he’s really a cat.” The lyrical couplets come fast and furious and you’re still laughing about one line after three more have gone by!
Great songwriting is something that can’t be faked, and Faia could seemingly fire off tunes like this in his sleep (and probably does!). Add excellent vocals and fine playing and you got yourself a great little album. Check it out!