Archive for the Scott Miller Category

Weekend YouTube: Best of 2009

Posted in Andrew Bird, Band of Heathens, Bombadil, Scott Miller, Shane Nicholson on December 11, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

It’s that time of year again… time to make my year end “Best of” list.  I should start rolling out my Top 20 list sometime over the coming week.

Until then, you can go back and read up on my favorite releases of 2009, and relive some of that music with the following YouTube clips…

#1 – Noble Beasts by Andrew Bird

#2 – One Foot in the Ether by Band of Heathens

#3 – Tarpits & Canyonlands by Bombadil

#4 – For Crying Out Loud by Scott Miller

#5 – Familiar Ghosts by Shane Nicholson

A Little Knox Music: Scott Miller’s Christmas Gift

Posted in Scott Miller on November 16, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I know it’s not quite the Holiday season yet… and I generally don’t like to get into Christmas music until after Thanksgiving… but today is the release date for Scott Miller’s new holiday disc Christmas Gift.  New music from Miller is a great gift no matter when it is shared, and I wanted to share this one with you now.

On this EP Miller wraps up seven tracks ranging from the original to the traditional with a few classic covers thrown in for good measure and places each one under the tree with care.  It’s a short set, but each song delivers, and there are no lumps of coal in the stocking.

The set begins with “Kingdom Has Come” a duet of sorts between Miller and Knoxville’s own R.B. Morris as well as a juxtaposition between a Miller original and a reading of T.S. Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi.”  Morris reads from Eliot’s verse about the Three Wise Men’s trip to Bethlehem as Miller sings of a similar journey.  Miller had originally asked Morris to read from The Book of Luke, but Morris suggested the Eliot piece instead.  It’s a beautiful combination.

The disc proceeds with the much punchier “Yes Viriginia,” the only other Miller original in the set.  Miller then tackles a tune from one of his heroes, John Prine’s “Christmas in Prison,” before diving into an upbeat bluegrass working of the traditional “Joyful, Joyful.”  The instrumental plays as a cross between Handel’s Messiah and “Dueling Banjos.”

After paying tribute to two more of his favorite songwriters with Roger Miller’s “Old Toy Trains” and Neil Young’s “Star of Bethleham,” Scott Miller closes out the disc with another traditional tune.  This time, it’s a sombre harmonica and piano instrumental reading of the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

As I said, it still feels a bit early to be talking about Christmas music, but early Holiday greetings are at the heart of this project.  Miller says his wife’s family has a tradition of trying to say the words “Christmas Gift” to each other as early as possible on Christmas Day.  He says releasing this EP in November is his way of beating the entire family to the punch.  It’s a welcome early stocking stuffer.

Scott Miller w/R.B. Morris: Kingdom Has Come (Buy Album)

For Jack Tymon

Posted in Scott Miller on July 29, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I get to take my new daughter home from the hospital today… and this song has been running through my mind repeatedly in the two days since she arrived. Scott Miller wrote it for a friend on the occasion of his son’s birth, and it’s full of heartfelt well wishes for a newborn child.

Scott Miller Fundraising for WDVX

Posted in Scott Miller, WDVX on March 18, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

As I mentioned yesterday, Scott Miller joined me on the air last night at WDVX as part of the kickoff of our Spring Fund Drive. WDVX is a community radio station in downtown Knoxville dedicated to playing roots and Americana music.

I talk about the station a lot here… not just because I work there… but because I also believe in what we’re doing there in trying to promote the music we love and the artists that create it. To be able to continue doing that work, we have to pass the hat a couple of times every year to ask for support from our listeners. Listener support is our single greatest source of funding at WDVX, and it helps keep the lights on and the music playing. If you like, you can support WDVX at our website and pick up a great new CD of live music from local artists like Scott Miller, the everybodyfields, Mic Harrison, Christabel and the Johns, Cutthroat Shamrock, and many, many others.
For his part, Scott Miller spent roughly an hour and a half on the air with me last night. He played some songs live in the studio (including taking requests in exchange for donations) and brought in a few CDs from his personal stash to play. I’m including a small portion of his visit and an acoustic version of “Absolution” from his time in the studio. The “Buy Album” link points to the studio version of the song.
Scott Miller live at the WDVX Fund Drive
Scott Miller: Absolution live at WDVX (Buy Album)

Top 20 of 2009: 6-4

Posted in Levon Helm, Scott Miller, Shane Nicholson, Top 20 of 2009 on January 5, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

#6 – Electric Dirt by Levon Helm

Levon Helm was a legend long before he revived his solo career in 2007 with the critically acclaimed Dirt Farmer. As a member of The Band in the 60’s and 70’s along with Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, and Robbie Robertson, Levon was responsible for creating some of the most beloved Roots Rock music of all time. His sharp drumming and weathered voice helped to define The Band’s sound and continues to shape his music today. Electric Dirt is Levon’s second album since returning to the music business following a battle with throat cancer.

This album picks up almost exactly where Dirt Farmer left off, and finds Levon covering several classics such as The Grateful Dead’s “Tennessee Jed,” Randy Newman’s “Kingfish,” and Pops Staples’ “Move Along Train.” Levon covers some new ground as well. The most inspired piece here is “When I Go Away,” a gospel flavored tune written by the album’s producer and fiddle player Larry Campbell. The song is also very representative of the album’s overall sound that blends a bit of soul into Levon’s country framework.

Levon Helm: When I Go Away (Buy Album)

#5 – Familiar Ghosts by Shane Nicholson

Here’s where this list deviates a bit from the one I turned in to The Bird List. Although it was a 2008 release in Shane’s native Australia, and it still hasn’t been issued in the U.S., this album was a big part of my year and needs to be included here. I told the story of how I obtained this album back when I wrote my review of it in August. What I didn’t say was that I started playing the record at WDVX (the only person in the States to do so?) and had several listeners email me to find out how to get a copy (iTunes). One listener even found a way to have a copy imported to him from overseas. I’d say this album is worth the extra effort it might take to find it.

The album is a continuation of the sound found on the collaborative album Shane released last year with his wife Kasey Chambers. The songs are all built around acoustic grooves and float from standard singer/songwriter fare to bluegrass flavored rambles and back. The result is a classic sound that also has a strong footing in the present. There was a time before I became familiar with Shane’s work when I thought he was merely a complimentary player piggybacking off of his wife’s name and acclaim. I no longer hold that belief.

Shane Nicholson: Easy Now (Buy Album)

#4 – For Crying Out Loud by Scott Miller & The Commonwealth

Again, I can’t have a list without putting Scott Miller on it. In fact, this album may even deserve to be higher on the list than it is. I certainly think I listened to it more than anything else this year. I know I played it more than anything else on the air at WDVX. The truth is that Scott is one of my favorite artists, he’s based out of Knoxville, and this site is named for one of his songs. I don’t want to appear too biased by placing him too high on the list. I interviewed Scott about the album when it was released in the Spring, and finally got around to posting my review in the Summer.

As I said in my previous review, don’t believe Scott when he starts the album with the lyric, “I’ve got nothing for you.” It’s just not true. What this album does is illustrate exactly why I love Scott Miller as a songwriter. He can write about both the ridiculous and the sublime and make both work extremely well. “Sin in Indiana” is a song based on Scott’s theory that uptight Midwesterners actually send all of their sin down the Mississippi River where it is released in the people of New Orleans. It features characters with teeth made of limestone and church deacons who hide pornography in cornfields. Ridiculous. It also features “I’m Right Here My Love,” a touching song about a married couple saying goodbye. Sublime. The song I’m sharing here is an older tune that has its origins in Scott’s days with the V-Roys.

Scott Miller & The Commonwealth: Heart in Harm’s Way (Buy Album)

Top 10 Americana Albums of the Decade: #6 – Thus Always to Tyrants by Scott Miller & The Commonwealth

Posted in Scott Miller, Top 10 Americana Albums: 2000-2009 on November 22, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

You knew he had to show up on this list at some point didn’t you?

Scott Miller is the one artist I’ve written about more than any other at this site. He’s been very good to me during my time in Knoxville, and he’s been very good to this website as well. Heck, he even agreed to let me use a lyric from one of his songs as the title for the site. That song, of course, is “I Made a Mess of This Town” (you can listen to it in the “About Me…” section on the right-hand side of the page) from this album… 2001’s Thus Always to Tyrants.

In fact, I’m not really sure what else I can say about Scott Miller and The Commonwealth that I haven’t already said before. I can, however, use this album as a vehicle to illustrate exactly why Scott is one of my favorite aritsts.

To me, the most interesting aspect of Scott’s music has always been his ability to write songs that deal with a wider range of topics than many other songwriters. He embraces self-destruction on the rocking “Absolution,” laments lost love on “Loving That Girl,” and muses on family dysfunction on “Daddy Raised a Boy.” The latter song being one of the most well written tunes in Scott’s catalogue. It shares a similar theme with Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s In the Cradle” in that the sins of the father eventually become the sins of the son.

“Now when I look into my father’s eyes,
We both see something we can recognize.
He sees a young man who’s lost his way.
I look at him I swear I see the same.”
Where Scott really changes things up sonically and thematically, though, is on a two song stretch in the middle of the album. In the midst of an album full of up-tempo guitar rockers, Scott slows things down for two Civil War period pieces in “Dear Sarah” and “Highland County Boy.” “Dear Sarah” is an old fashioned string band number based on letters written by one of Scott’s ancestors to his beloved while he served as a soldier in the War. It’s a love song, but it’s a love song wrapped inside a history lesson.
Scott’s sneaky that way. He holds degrees in American History and Russian & Soviet Studies from the highly prestigious College of William & Mary. He’s written songs about The Civil War and World War II. He’s even written one song that is nothing but a musical biography of the great Tennessee and Texas statesman Sam Houston. He’ll make you learn something if you aren’t paying attention…
…Then he’ll sing a song about why he hates babies, tell a crass joke on stage, call himself a dipshit (one of his favorite words to describe himself), and shatter whatever illusion he’s built. That’s the true dichotomous nature of Scott Miller and his music, and it’s in fine display on this album.
Take the final two songs on this disc for instance. The album closing “Is There Room on the Cross for Me” is a gospel drenched piano number that ends the proceedings on a solemn and somber note. The song itself is prayer for God to bring some peace to the singer’s soul as he, “cannot bear this world alone.” Very touching. Very dignified.
The song before that? A fire breathing rocker called “Goddamn the Sun.”
Ladies and Gentlemen… Scott Miller.

Random Weekend Post: Scott Miller’s New Single

Posted in Knoxville Music, Scott Miller on October 24, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Last week, I told you about Scott Miller’s new single “Lo Siento, Spanishburg WVa.” Scott is selling downloads of the song on his website to help raise funds for his next studio recording. This is the first in what should be a series of such downloadable tracks.

Scott has also created a video for his new song. You can watch it here and see more of Scott’s videos on his YouTube page.