Scott Miller and The Commonwealth
Thus Always to Tyrants
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2001, Volume 8, #10
Written by John Metzger
Scott Miller built a formidable reputation, particularly in the Southeast, with the V-Roys, but it is as a solo artist that he appears poised to flourish. A close association with Steve Earle — they've written several songs together and Earle's label E-Squared released the V-Roys' three albums — undoubtedly has left a strong impression on him, providing the type of mentoring relationship that guides him throughout his solo debut Thus Always to Tyrants.
To be fair, Miller's songwriting really hasn't taken any startling new directions as he's been working in a similar vein for quite some time. The influences of Earle, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, John Prine, and the like, all continue to figure prominently, but Miller sounds more relaxed and has certainly matured significantly. As a result, he has a better understanding of how a song can take on a life of its own and that it needn't be forced to make the magic happen.
Across the River easily could have found it's way into the V-Roys repertoire, but here it's turned into something greater. Its driving Neil Young-meets-Tom Petty guitars thrash and flail as a Revolver-like string section swirls around the mayhem. Likewise, on Absolution, Miller turns an Everly Brothers riff into a roaring, rampaging ruckus.
Buried in the middle of the album, however, are the songs that fare best. These selections quietly find their voice, strolling rural, laid-back, bluegrass-tinged grooves. Miller masterfully pays tribute to his great-great grandparents on Dear, Sarah and views himself as a younger sibling who watches his brothers go off to war in Highland County Boy. By embracing a more roots-oriented sound, Miller allows his lyrics to take center stage, creating a vivid picture based upon his words, and while it's far too early to declare him the next great American songwriter, Thus Always to Tyrants offers hope to those who might be looking. ½
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box