Scott Miller & The Commonwealth

Thus Always to Tyrants (Sugar Hill)

Record Reviews

Scott Miller & The Commonwealth

Thus Always to Tyrants (Sugar Hill)

Scott Miller is from Virginia and very proud of it. A onetime member of the late, lamented V-Roys, he's named his solo debut after the Virginia state motto, "Sic Semper Tyrannis," and since Virginia refers to itself as "the Commonwealth," he's adapted that too. The V-Roys were known for their two albums produced by Steve Earle, their tasty brand of roots rock, and an energetic live show. Miller was one of their primary songwriters and he's brought what was great about his old band to a new setting with powerful results. Thus Always to Tyrants is packed with one well-crafted song after another; some come at you like a punch to the head, a couple more buzz with a lighter touch yet are equally effecting. Miller's tunes mingle themes from Virginia-related historical fables and current-day experiences of self-discovery and maturity with musical styles that veer from dynamic pop with gigantic rock hooks to a soulful Appalachian-style hymn. What keeps it all together is his sly way with words and a biting sense of humor. From the riff-rocking opener "Across the Line" and bluegrass-tinged "Dear Sarah" to the Replacements-style rave-up "Goddamn the Sun" and soulful spiritual "Is There Room on the Cross for Me," Miller covers a lot of musical territory. That he does so with a refined touch, in a way that makes you think, certifies him as one of a rare breed of songwriters and makes Thus Always to Tyrants an unqualified success.

****

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