After three studio albums plus a live disc on Sugar Hill, Scott Miller embraces the full-on indie way forward with For Crying Out Loud – but without any dramatic changes to his musical approach. Fans of his previous records under the banner of Scott Miller & the Commonwealth, as well as his 1990s efforts as frontman of the V-Roys, should follow quite easily to this latest baker’s dozen of songs.
For Miller, the modus operandi is generally no-nonsense rootsy rock & roll, sometimes quieter and more reflective acoustic balladry, and almost always a way with words that few other Americana songwriters can match. Although he’s dropped the suffix of “& the Commonwealth” from the album cover, they’re still with him: guitarist/keyboardist Jeremy Pennebaker, bassist Chris Autry and drummer Shawn McWilliams all are on board here, boosted in a couple spots by cameos from Patty Griffin and Tim O’Brien.
Griffin’s call-and-response duet vocal helps turn the gentle waltz “I’m Right Here My Love” into one of the disc’s most enchanting moments; along with the humble love song “She’s Still Mine” and the sublimely sweet album-closer “Appalachian Refugee”, it’s continued proof of Miller’s ability to excel with acoustic songcraft, even as he’s generally made his name with more rambunctious stuff. That said, For Crying Out Loud features plenty of rootsy rock numbers to further solidify his rockin’ reputation, from the sneering opener “Cheap Ain’t Cheap (For Crying Out Loud)” to the fast-paced power-poppish “Iron Gate” to a terrifically upbeat and sure-handed cover of Gram Parsons’ “I Can’t Dance” (written by Tom T. Hall).
Best of all are two cuts that sonically fall somewhere inbetween the hard and the soft, but most vividly represent Miller’s considerable talents as a wordsmith. “Sin In Indiana” shuffles along to a bluesy backdrop as Miller spins out line after hilarious line about its title’s condition. (Example: “Magnolia Hempstead could not stop/Eatin’ popcorn when she’s high on pot/She kept on chewin’ till her teeth were gone/The dentist made some outta cut limestone.”) Better still is “Let You Down”, which Miller delivers tongue-in-cheekily as an unbreakable vow: “I will let you down, believe me.” Yeah, he says that…but really, he won’t.