For Crying Out Loud
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2010, Volume 17, #9
Written by John Metzger
Wed September 8, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
The more albums that Scott Miller lays on the table, the more he has to battle the law of diminishing returns. Thereís nothing inherently wrong with how he has approached any of his efforts. In fact, they are all quite enjoyable, particularly to those music fans who want their roots-oriented fare to be delivered with the rowdy forcefulness of a garage-rock band. Itís no wonder Steve Earle took a liking to Millerís early work with The V-Roys.
To his credit, ever since he stepped out on his own with Thus Always to Tyrants, Miller has taken the ball, and he has run with it. The problem, however, is this: Although he arrived on the scene well-formed as both a songwriter and performer, his subsequent growth has been minimal. Miller has shown a lot of consistency from one outing to the next. Yet, he undeniably needs to find some way of keeping his efforts from sounding so interchangeable.
For Crying Out Loud is the first endeavor that Miller has issued since severing his ties to Sugar Hill. One might think that Millerís liberation would cause him to break the mold of his familiar formula. His departure, however, had less to do with a creative dispute than it did with a desire to reap greater financial rewards by controlling his own fate. Consequently, even though he now is recording under the auspices of his own label, Miller plays his hand close to his vest.
Lining his observational story-songs with wit and wisdom, Miller fills For Crying Out Loud with few surprises. Instead, he traverses terrain that is nearly identical in scope to his previous endeavors. Even his special guests are holdovers from his past: Tim OíBrien returns to sing harmony on I Canít Dance, while Patty Griffin joins him for a touching duet on Iím Right Here, My Love. Itís difficult to argue with Millerís success. At the same time, though, it often feels as if he is reluctant to overturn his apple cart.
The biggest difference between For Crying Out Loud and its predecessors is that Miller has gone to greater lengths to close the gap between his acoustic and electric sides. Regardless, he has always adhered to tradition, and once again, he isnít afraid to borrow liberally from the classics. During Cheap Ainít Cheap (For Crying Out Loud), for example, he winks at Tommy James and The Shondellís Mony Mony, and the aggressive charge he puts into Claire Marie is culled from Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. Elsewhere, Iron Gate pays homage to The Who and Led Zeppelin, while Heart in Harmís Way highlights the overlap among The Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, and Joe Jackson.
There is no question that with For Crying Out Loud, Miller has added another batch of sturdy tunes to his canon. At the same time, though, the sum total of the endeavor amounts to nothing more than a well-played roots-rock effort. For Crying Out Loud will please his fans, and it even might attract a few new ones to his camp. Anyone hoping Miller would push beyond his tried-and-true approach, however, is bound to be a little disappointed.
Of Further Interest...
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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