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Scott Miller

Ladies Auxiliary – 2017 (F.A.Y.)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Scott Miller

Scott Miller is far removed from his seminal alt.-country bands, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based V-Roys and his home-state band, The Commonwealth. This time out, his first recording in four years, Miller is acoustically backed by a complete band of females. Although the rock n' roll fire may have diminished some, Miller still has plenty of lyrical power about life's troubles, love and the current sorry state of politics and class divide. It's refreshing to have his voice back.

Having returned to his home state of Virginia in 2011 to run his family's cattle ranch, Miller uniquely finds a way to marry rural aspects and hard labor with a stunning knowledge of Greek mythology, modern poetry and keen observations one might associate with a college professor. In fact, at one point, he wanted to title the album after one of his tunes, "Thalia and Melpomene," Greek muses of the theater. That thought was quickly rejected by his manager, but it gives an insight into Miller's unique approach.

Miller settled on the title because all the players, except him, are females, manager Kathi Whitley included. The record was produced by Anne McCue, who also played various instruments alongside keyboardist Jen Gunderman, fiddlers Rayna Gellert and Deanie Richardson, bassist Bryn Davies and drummer Megan Carchman. Miller worked with Gellert on his last album and was especially impressed by McCue's vintage Django Reinhart and Charlie Christian swing. Her banjaroo on "Ten Miles Down the Nine Mile Road' is especially distinctive.

The rousing opener, "Epic Love" could be inspired by Miller's hero and Shenandoah Valley native Sam Houston. "This River's Mine/This Valley's Mine" reveals Miller's cattleman side. "Middle Man" is purely autobiographical. "Someday/Sometime" is an attempt to put himself in the shoes of the father of a late friend of his, who left behind twin eight-year-old girls after taking his own life. "Jacki With an Eye," on the other hand, is a lighthearted tale about a county fairground romp. "Ten Miles Down the Nine Mile Road" is a co-write with Robin and Linda Williams. "Mother-in-Law," one of the two covers, is indicative of Miller's sense of humor.

The centerpiece is the talking blues of "Lo Siento," a James McMurtry like blistering commentary on Spanishburg, West Virginia, a dying town recently gentrified by the arrival of wealthy retirees converging from the DC suburbs. Miller's one of our most vivid, story-telling songwriters. Let's hope he doesn't stay away so long next time.