Scott Miller & the Commonwealth | Citation (Sugarhill)

Those familiar with Miller from his past releases won’t find any surprises on Citation. Stylistically, no new ground is broken, but more of the same, at least in this case, isn’t a bad thing.

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Some may know Scott Miller & the Commonwealth as the house band on the WB network’s Blue Collar TV show. St. Louis audiences may have seen Miller in one of his three appearances at Twangfest (one as a member of the V-Roys). Or possibly you’ve heard one of Miller’s last two discs (2001’s Thus Always to Tyrants and 2003’s Upside Downside), which were among the best roots-rock releases of their respective years. Those familiar with Miller from his past releases won’t find any surprises on Citation. Stylistically, no new ground is broken, but more of the same, at least in this case, isn’t a bad thing.

One of Miller’s talents is his ability to easily move from a slow acoustic number with the sensitivity they require to a full-out, no-holds-barred rocker. “8 Miles a Gallon” is one of those rockers, a tribute to a shuttle bus Miller owns (originally used for tailgating at University of Tennessee games). Another, a cover of Neil Young’s “Hawks and Doves,” is a timely selection. Although seen by some as anti-war (or anti–United States) and entirely the opposite by others (maybe it depends on whether you’re a hawk or a dove), a close study of the lyrics points to a middle ground.

A rock staple is the subject of the guy who’s romancing your girlfriend while you’re away. Miller’s slant on this subject is “Jody,” the name servicemen attach to the guy they imagine in this role, although in his press materials he points out that today this could be the girl romancing your guy, or even the girl romancing your girl.

Before recording “Say Ho,” producer Jim Dickinson informed Miller that Sam Houston, the subject of the song, had killed his great-great-grandfather in a duel, but “he produced the song anyway.” Although a seminal figure in Texas history, Miller is quick to point out that Houston was first a Virginian, then an East Tennessean (just like Miller), and only later moved to Texas. Several lines from this mini-bio of Houston would form an excellent foundation for anyone to base their approach on life, the best probably, “If you aren’t going to make your dreams epic, why bother to dream anything at all.”

In his prior releases Miller set the bar extremely high. While not quite rising to that level, when the end-of-year best-of lists are being compiled, Citation will be a contender.

 

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