May 2006

Scott Miller & The Commonwealth - Citation
Sugar Hill SUG-CD-4009
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

I haven’t experienced many CDs with stickers warning "Parental Advisory: Explicit." Apparently, parents fear explanations or are being urged to. Facetious comments aside, all I could find on Scott Miller & The Commonwealth’s Citation CD that might elicit the warning are these lines in "Freedom’s A Stranger":

I had her crawlin’ out the window
She had me shakin’ in my seat
I could smell her on my fingers,
She said it tastes so swee-ee-ee-eet.

Not much there to turn a young-un to serial killin’, I would think. And fact is, it's implicit, not explicit. The artistic writing leaves it to listeners to provide their own explanation, drawing forth their own "dirty thoughts."

Like that tune, the others, mostly in quick-paced fashion, succinctly and artistically render a young man’s experience, with no gratuitous lewdness. I especially like the call-and-response singing in "The Only Road," a third-person narrative about some people’s difficult lives: "The only road he’d (she’d, they’d) ever known was gravel, clay and cotton bolls."

The only cover -- Miller wrote the rest -- is Neil Young’s "Hawks and Doves," which is a good match for Miller’s style and irreverence. It’s a good, clear recording, too. You can hear every word Miller sings although guitars, drums, keyboards, and bass are also entirely audible. The "wall of sound" effect that muddies some rock albums is minimized. We often hear just the lead vocal and one instrument, with others coming in at nicely timed moments.

But it’s the substance and smart performing that show me why Miller’s folky rock work has been well received and makes me want to hear his other stuff.