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Scott Miller and the Commonwealth | Upside Downside (Sugar Hill)
Scott Miller, formerly of the V-Roys (as opposed to the Game Theory, Loud Family variety) second solo album (albeit again recorded with his deliberately titled loose backing band, The Commonwealth), is another sterling roots rock effort, following his 'Thus Always To Tyrants' debut of 2001.
The V-Roys were taken under Steve Earle's wing in the latter days of their career, and Earle's clearly been a big influence on Miller's work. Exploring everyday themes, his songs certainly make a lasting impression, whether it's dealing with love/lust on the riveting pedal-to-the-metal Chuck Berry-like opener It Didn't Take Too Long, leaving home (Amtrak Crescent) and more pertinently home itself (Raised By The Graves), your family (Pull Your Load) and broader, tragically continually relevant topics like war and it's lasting effects, whether it's the American Civil War which Miller dealt on his debut or the Second World War and beyond as here on Red Ball Express ("All we do is keep rolling on, Trading bodies for petroleum"). Indeed!  
Miller is equally at home with a full-on rock band, or playing solo with a trusty acoustic ?? a fact emphasised by the album's cover which ties into its title ?? a split-screen rotatable sleeve featuring a half electric/half acoustic guitar which loosely equates to the Upside/Downside concept of the album, although it's not entirely that clear cut. On Ciderville Saturday Night he proves he's no slouch at bluegrass either, although he has got Tim O'Brien, one of the genre's best musicians, on board to help out. Elsewhere Patty Griffin also lands her vocal talents to a couple of cuts.
Over several years Scott Miller has proved himself an adept performer and Upside Downside is a cracking album full of gritty, often thought-provoking material that deserves to gain him further acclaim and more importantly greater recognition.

Geraint Jones
CWAS #13 - Autumn 2003

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