Car Tape 2 – Lisa Miller | CD review

(Raoul) 3.5 stars

Lisa Miller’s first ‘Car Tape’ CD started out as a covers side project in 2002 during a career lull, but became the Australian singer’s most successful recording. Eight years later, although the cassette tape concept now seems even more retro (when iTunes playlists are the go) Miller embarked on her follow-up with characteristic chutzpah, revisiting old, occasionally unfamiliar songs with often audacious arrangements that owe much to co-producer and guitarist Shane O’Mara in his Yikesville home studio.

O’Mara loves to crank up the effects and he turns it on for the opener, a gritty makeover of the Willie Dixon blues ballad ‘Hidden Charms’, while on David Crosby’s evocative ‘Traction in the Rain’ he kicks in the reverb.

Eclecticism is their aim, ranging from Tim Hardin and Ryan Adams to girl group The Cake and chanteuse Francoise Hardy, but with original interpretations.

For example, Curtis Mayfield’s funky ‘Superfly’ and the James Bond movie’s ‘Moonraker’ are transformed into gentle acoustic ballads. Miller also mines the Stax soul vaults for the grandiose ‘I’ll Run Your Heart Away’ but at the album’s core are two superb renditions: Neil Young’s moody ‘Ambulance Blues’ and the song that inspired it, the gently elegiac ‘Needle of Death’ of British folk guitarist Bert Jansch.

- Mike Daly

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