Scott Miller & the Commonwealth

Scott Miller's name always comes up in any discussion of the amorphous musical movement that flies under the pirate flag of alternative country. True to the movement's indefinable parameters, Miller doesn't much care whether he's flat- picking an acoustic or flailing a Tele turned to 11. One minute he's delivering a song like "Dear Sarah" that sounds like it's bounced around the hills since the Civil War, the next he's doubling back on a hairpin curve with a track like "Goddamn the Sun" that takes us into the bowels of a raunchy rock-your-socks-off garage band. Miller's "Ciderville Saturday Night" steps through a hole in time and combines the best elements of Sticksville country with the smarts of a 21st-century Ph.D. Truth is, Miller's musical tastes cover huge swathes of Southern music, and what makes his work so exciting is his quick-witted ability to reinterpret and extend the musical traditions to which he pledges allegiance. He has a singular lyrical gift that makes deep tracks such as "I've Got a Plan" or "The Way" especially memorable. And when Miller gets religious with tracks like "Is There Room on the Cross for Me," even the agnostics and nihilists find themselves singing along.
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William Michael Smith