Scott Miller & the Commonwealth
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2006, Volume 13, #3
Written by John Metzger
There’s a darkness that clings to the surface of Scott Miller’s third solo outing Citation, and it stems from the world’s current socio-political climate. Producer Jim Dickinson alludes to it in his liner notes, which, perhaps, not so coincidentally were penned in Independence, Missouri, and the titles of some of its songs — Freedom’s a Stranger and 8 Miles a Gallon among them — leave one with the initial impression that Miller might be following his hero Steve Earle right into the maelstrom of grassroots activism. Then again, it’s never a good idea to judge a book — or an album, for that matter — by its cover. As Citation progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that Miller isn’t interested in making partisan statements or becoming mired in murky disillusion. Instead, his objective is to find the light that glows within the heart of America and reveal the unifying factors that consistently have made this country strong. Throughout the set, Miller tells the tales of working class souls who reflect fondly upon their carefree youth, but proudly tout their self-reliance as they accept the responsibilities of adulthood by fulfilling their obligations while wearing the battle scars of life like badges of honor. In covering Neil Young’s Hawks and Doves, he further emphasizes the collection’s underlying patriotic flavor, which he accomplishes without resorting to the sort of jingoistic fervor that continues to propel Toby Keith to the top of the charts. The soulful curls of organ and the Springsteen-ian howl that fill Freedom’s a Stranger, the Southern-fried blues of 8 Miles a Gallon, and the Mellencamp-bred aura that hangs over Wild Things all help to shape the material into something that is universally appealing. Yet, it’s Miller’s lyrics that hit hardest and cause Citation to resonate, and his characters inevitably find salvation not only through their determination to survive but also through the healing power of rock ’n‘ roll. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box