SXSW: Scott Miller

"I've been drunk all around this town, from the downside up to the upside down...." So sings Scott Miller in "Drunk All Around this Town," which he calls "the most beautiful ballad I have ever written." That might not be true but it is a most apropos song for SXSW, and it never sounded better than it did Thursday night at Waterloo Ice House.

Like John Prine, Miller is not just a funny songwriter, although can be one of the most humorous out there. He can also come up with lines that are downright Zen - like "every winter will spring and every summer will fall" from "Loving That Girl is Too Hard on a Man."

And then there is "The Way," in which a hauntingly melancholy melody propels lines like "Midnight and I'm feeling alright, but my baby is tired. We drove down to a party in town, and I should of known I was gonna drink too hard. The windy road when I'm driving it home Every twist and turn. I've had enough of the way I was. Seems like by now its time to learn the way." The bridge from the song, in which he sings about how he's lost the way, kept popping up unbidden in my head throughout the rest of the festival.

Afterwards, Nick Gaitan, Miller and I retired to the back patio at the nearby Shoal Creek Saloon with a Chicago novelist and a woman from Indiana who fluently spoke a made-up language called Alfafa. You had to hear it to believe it, and I guess you sort of had to be there, but I haven't laughed as hard in a long time.

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