"Thanks for coming, I'm Joe Diffie," cracked Scott Miller as he took the stage for his solo acoustic gig at the Mucky Duck. "I've got a bunch of new songs and I'm gonna do 'em and y'all can trash 'em."
Miller opened with an instrumental from his upcoming, untitled record and then proceeded to play five more vocal numbers from the same. "Freedom's a Stranger," Miller's very own "Night Moves," was the first song I could sing along with and it came about a half-hour in. Not that I'm complaining, but Miller's songs are subtly devastating and you are always finding new gems in even his older material.
Of his new songs, standouts included "Appalachian Refugee" which sports a line in it about "the ridge they call blue and the oldest river they call new"; another tune, which my notes say is called "I Let You Down" reminded me melodically of "I'll Fly Away" and in feel of Miller's own "slacker hymn" "Is There Room on the Cross for Me"; "Sin in Indiana" was in part inspired by the unintentional names that result from paired exits on highways, including our very own Hempstead Magnolia, and also had this killer line: "he was twice as mean as a boilermaker full of amphetamine."
Miller's vein of lyrical gold seems inexhaustible; almost every one of his songs has a line or two that stops you dead in your tracks. (In that sense, he reminds me, oddly enough, of local underground MC K-Rino, who once accurately boasted that "lines I spit in '92 only just now got people saying 'Hoo-ooo!'") After the all-sweeping triumph that was his 2001 album Thus Always to Tyrants, I remember being somewhat disappointed by his album Upside / Downside at the time, and now there's five or six songs on there that I'll listen to forever.
A few examples, just from songs that he performed last night:
"For Jack Tymon": "May your heart be so pure it's one that God wants to know"
"Ciderville Saturday Night": "The only thing I pray is that baby looks right and the cops the other way"
"Amtrak Crescent": "It used to be pretty on the Eastern Shore, now it's more New York down to Baltimore. It took so much effort just to move this train. Why does everything around me have to look the same? Like when life goes wrong, it just goes on and on."
And on and on and on...Miller carries these off solo like a master, as his banter is top-shelf, damn-near Todd Snider level. Out of the blue, he announced that he wanted to buy a racehorse and name it "Fugitive Glue," and he introduced "Say Ho," his tribute to Sam Houston by saying "Us Tennesseans and Virginians love coming to Texas to check on our investment."
Which brings me to a point: Where were all Scott's thirtysomething fans, the people who used to go see him at Rudyard's a few years ago and at his V-Roys gigs at the FabSat way back when? The median age at this show seemed to be about 45.
Two of the few young'uns in the crowd
I know it was a Tuesday, and some people my age think of the Mucky as little more than a retirement home with fish and chips and beer, but when you get the chance to see the Bruce Springsteen of the Southeast in his prime in such a close environment, you need to take it.
Setlist, as best as I can make it:
Instrumental from New Album "Mary, Oh Mary" "Appalachian Refugee" "I Left You Down" "Sin in Indiana" "Reaching Home" "Freedom's a Stranger" "For Cryin' Out Loud" "Mess of this Town" "Heart in Harm's Way" "Claire Marie" "One Red Rose" "Ironside Pike" "Ciderville Saturday Night" "Say Ho" "Red Ball Express" "Amtrak Crescent" "Drunk Around This Town" "By My Side" "8 Miles a Gallon" "Daddy Raised a Boy and Not a Man" "For Jack Tymon" "Hawks and Doves" "Angels Dwell" "Highland County Boy" Spotsylvania Song
-- John Nova Lomax