may 2009

Scott Miller
F.A.Y. Recordings

Fans of Scott Miller and his rock-solid rock band the Commonwealth probably wonder why it took so long for For Crying Out Loud to show up as an album title, given the phrase's eminent appropriateness as a summarization of what the quartet has been doing for what is now a nine-album catalogue. This outing, which began life as a series of guitar-vocal home demos that Miller had the band flesh out in a recording studio, does indeed have its loud moments—it announces as much in the pummeling, acoustic guitar-driven guitar and Miller's searing, crying vocal on the topical album opener, "Cheap Ain't Cheap (For Crying Out Loud)," ("the dollar's weak/I'm so damn broke"), which evolves into a thumping, stomping '60s-ish rocker with some Clash overtones in its attitude, energy and the personal-is-political account of striving in the face of daunting odds. With shimmering guitars, snarling twin guitar solos, a rich, humming organ, handclaps and a stomping, percussive drive, "Wildcat Whistle" is like no mining song you've ever heard. Rather than the weariness and gloom that characterize this particular strain of song, understandably so, Miller goes raging into the good night of the mine, railing against the punishing work and the meager return it gives—"They got you livin' in a four-room shack/if you could even call it that," the band cries out loud angrily in the choruses. But Miller is less interested in topicality here than he is in mining matters of the heart, and on that count For Crying Out Loud is an unadulterated delight, full of energy, heart, and joie de vivre. "Claire Marie," a furious '50s-style rocker complete with Michael Webb pounding out some Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano underneath Miller's hearty vocal and sizzling lead guitar, is a house wrecker of the first order, a glorious, sweat-inducing blast of muscular, roadhouse rock 'n' roll with no great meaning beyond encouraging celebratory outbursts in the populace. It's followed by another hearty groover in a similar vein, "I Can't Dance," which brings the organ back into play to advance the swinging, good-time groove with a hint of Tex-Mex flavor in its herky-jerky rhythm. And while the rock assault continues unabated with the heavy guitar pyrotechnics of "Fair to Midland," this is but prelude to the ominous, shuffling setting of "Double Indemnity," a song based on the murder that inspired the classic Billy Wilder movie and evolves into a quite singular type of murder ballad in which the dirty deed is alluded to rather than explicitly described and leaves room for, shall we say, reasonable doubt. There's a nice acoustic, Delta-inflected blues in "Sin In Indiana" ("it's a powerful thing," according to Miller, and we choose to take him at his word as he rolls through a litany of nefarious evil doers, from meth-heads to potheads to sex traffickers), with Doug Lancio adding some striking slide guitar work to spice up the stark ambiance and add some ballast to Miller's wry, reportorial vocal. And with Patti Griffin adding a keening, Emmylou style second vocal, Miller offers a beautiful, mountain-styled love song, "I'm Right Here, My Love," which seems to be sung by a dead or dying man to the woman he's leaving behind, with Michael Webb's accordion enhancing the poignant ambiance. And for good measure, Miller shows off a natural affinity for classic southern style R&B with some cautionary advice to the lovelorn in the steady grooving, organ-rich "Heart In Harm's Way." All in all, chalk up this long player as a big winner for Scott Miller: there's neither a false note nor a bad song nor an impotent vocal in evidence. It may be too stylistically diverse for those who prefer to pigeonhole artists into neatly defined categories, but wherever he lands on this disc, Miller sounds like he belongs right there. —David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024