It’s tempting to think of this live release from former V-Roys leader Scott Miller as an appetizer, the house salad before the entrée due in June: a studio album recorded with Miller’s new outfit the Commonwealth. But it’s worth remembering that before serving as stage-right co-frontguy for the V-Roys, Miller traveled the acoustic circuit as a solo artist.
Thus, Are You With Me? is as much a return to roots as it is a placeholder. The twelve-song collection, recorded at the Down Home in Johnson City and Patrick Sullivan’s in Knoxville, shows him at ease in acoustic storyteller mode, equal parts Loudon Wainwright III, John Prine and seated Neil Young with a little Roger Miller and Steve Martin around the edges.
You could probably get away with saying that Are You With Me? plays subdued Sunday morning to the upcoming band album’s rollicking Saturday night, especially in light of the set-closing pair of “May The Lord Watch Over Thee” and “I’ll Go To My Grave”. However, as illustrated by “Bastard’s Only Son” and “Mess Of This Town” (“this is a song about shitting in your own sandbox”), Miller can raise a ruckus all by himself. By way of contrast, he follows the former with “Goodnight Loser” and the latter with “Lie I Believe”, two of his quietest V-Roys creations.
Miller’s sharpest writing elevates two new compositions, his train-song debut “Amtrak Crescent” and a Civil War tune titled “The Rain”. Keep your powder dry, at least until the next battle in June.