Thus Always to Tyrants (album)

Last updated
Thus Always to Tyrants
ThusAlwaysToTyrantsAlbum.jpg
Studio album by Scott Miller
Released June 12, 2001
Genre Alternative country
Length41:03
Label Sugar Hill
Producer R.S. Field
Scott Miller chronology
Are You with Me?
(2000)
Thus Always to Tyrants
(2001)
Upside Downside
(2003)

Thus Always to Tyrants is a 2001 album released by alternative country musician Scott Miller, and the first album credited to Scott Miller & the Commonwealth. It was Miller's first full-length album release after the breakup of his previous band, The V-Roys.

Alternative country, or alternative country rock is a loosely defined subgenre of country music and rock music, which includes acts that differ significantly in style from mainstream country music and pop country music. Alternative country artists are often influenced by alternative rock. However, the term has been used to describe country music bands and artists that have incorporated influences from alternative rock, indie rock, roots rock, bluegrass, neotraditional country, punk rock, rockabilly, punkabilly, honky-tonk, outlaw country, folk rock, indie folk, folk revival, hard rock, R&B, country rock, heartland rock, and Southern rock.

Scott Miller (country musician) American country musician

Allen Scott Miller is an American Southern rock and alternative country singer, songwriter, and guitarist.

The V-Roys

The V-Roys were a Knoxville, Tennessee-based alternative country band signed to E-Squared Records. The band was described as "walking the fine line between rootsy country and cutting-edge alternative rock". Scott Miller, John Paul Keith, and Mic Harrison were the primary songwriters for the band.

Contents

Background

Miller was one of the leaders of The V-Roys, an alternative country band that was on Steve Earle's E-Squared Records, and described as "a critically acclaimed, commercially under appreciated" band with a "tasty brand of roots rock". [1] [2] When explaining his decision to begin a solo career, Miller said that the band reached their creative peak, some band members did not like touring, and also that Earle lost interest. [3] [4] [5]

Steve Earle singer-songwriter, recording artist and producer

Stephen Fain Earle is an American rock, country and folk singer-songwriter, record producer, author and actor. Earle began his career as a songwriter in Nashville and released his first EP in 1982.

E-Squared Records was a record label founded in 1996 by singer-songwriter and producer Steve Earle and seasoned music executive Jack Emerson. The label produced a series of albums by Earle, starting with 1996's I Feel Alright. Warner Bros. supported the label on many early releases. Earle and Emerson soon began signing and releasing additional artists, such as 6 String Drag, The V-Roys, Bap Kennedy, and Cheri Knight. According to Billboard the label developed a reputation for "releasing fine albums by artists who excel at songcraft and whose music is happily uncategorizable — hovering around rock, country and pop but never landing in any one camp."

Recording

Shortly after The V-Roys broke up, Miller secured a publishing deal with Welk Music Group. [5] In May 2000, he recorded four songs with Nashville producer R.S. Field and veteran Nashville session musicians. [5] These songs reflected a classic rock 'n' roll sound. Field said, "We were going for a full-bodied sound, without trying to just ape yesterday. Obviously Neil Young, obviously [Tom] Petty, and then some of the British stuff too." [5]

Welk Music Group is an American record company comprising three labels, Ranwood Records, Vanguard Records and Sugar Hill Records. It was founded by Lawrence Welk and is still owned by the Welk Family. The company evolved from when Welk's Teleklew Productions acquired its first music publishing company in 1957. UMG distributes the Welk labels.

Neil Young Canadian singer-songwriter

Neil Percival Young, is a Canadian singer-songwriter and musician. After embarking on a music career in the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, where he formed Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and others. Young had released two solo albums and three as a member of Buffalo Springfield by the time he joined Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969. From his early solo albums and those with his backing band Crazy Horse, Young has recorded a steady stream of studio and live albums, sometimes warring with his recording company along the way.

Tom Petty American musician

Thomas Earl Petty was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. He was the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, formed in 1976. He previously led the band Mudcrutch. He was also a co-founder of the late 1980s supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.

Miller was able to secure a deal with Sugar Hill, despite the label's preference of acoustic acts. [5] Miller and Field brought in experienced musicians for the subsequent recordings, including members of Knoxville's Superdrag, The Judybats, David Grissom, and bluegrass musician Tim O'Brien. [5] [6]

Sugar Hill Records American independent record label

Sugar Hill Records is an American bluegrass and Americana record label.

Superdrag was an American alternative rock band from Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. They are best known for their 1996 single, "Sucked Out", off their album Regretfully Yours, for which a video clip was broadcast on MTV. The original lineup reunited in 2007, releasing a full-length album in 2009: Industry Giants.

David Grissom American musician

David Grissom is an American guitarist who has played and toured with several of America's leading bands and recording artists. He is best known for his work with John Mellencamp. He has released four solo albums: Loud Music, 10,000 Feet, Way Down Deep, and How It Feels to Fly. Grissom uses a PRS guitar and has for most of his career.

Themes

The album's title, Thus Always to Tyrants is a translation of the official motto of the state of Virginia (Sic semper tyrannis in Latin). The album cover is also Virginia's state seal. This is reflective of the themes on the album; Miller lyrics are both autobiographical about his life in Virginia, and also of his family's history in the Shenandoah Valley.

Virginia State of the United States of America

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States located between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" due to its status as the first English colonial possession established in mainland North America and "Mother of Presidents" because eight U.S. presidents were born there, more than any other state. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2017 is over 8.4 million.

Sic semper tyrannis is a Latin phrase meaning "thus always to tyrants."

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Miller stated that he "tried to make a whole record all about Virginia, about my past, about moving to Tennessee" and "going from a boy to a man". [5] A review summarized that Miller "dug into his family history in places like Augusta, Highland and Bath counties and unearthed letters and tales from the Civil War". [1] Another review described the album as "mingling themes from Virginia-related historical fables and current-day experiences of self-discovery and maturity with musical styles that veer from dynamic pop with gigantic rock hooks to a soulful Appalachian-style hymn". [7] No Depression writes, "The overall sense is of a newfound and stubbornly won acceptance of responsibility and purpose". [5] Relocation and starting over is another theme noted. [6]

Tennessee State of the United States of America

Tennessee is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. Tennessee is the 36th largest and the 16th most populous of the 50 United States. Tennessee is bordered by Kentucky to the north, Virginia to the northeast, North Carolina to the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, Arkansas to the west, and Missouri to the northwest. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part of the state, and the Mississippi River forms the state's western border. Nashville is the state's capital and largest city, with a 2017 population of 667,560. Tennessee's second largest city is Memphis, which had a population of 652,236 in 2017.

Augusta County, Virginia County in the United States

Augusta County is a county located in the Shenandoah Valley on the western edge of the U.S. commonwealth of Virginia. It is the second-largest county in Virginia by total area, and it completely surrounds the independent cities of Staunton and Waynesboro. The county seat of Augusta is Staunton, although most of the administrative services have offices in neighboring Verona.

Highland County, Virginia County in the United States

Highland County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 2,321, in 2015, the population was estimated at 2,214. Its county seat is Monterey. Known as "Virginia's Switzerland" or "Virginia's Little Switzerland", Highland County is the least populous county in Virginia. Highland lays claim to being one of the least populous counties and one of the highest average elevations east of the Mississippi River.

Two songs on the album are based on letters that Miller's great-great-grandfather sent home from his time serving in the Confederacy in the Civil War. Noted Appalachian musicians Tim O'Brien and Dirk Powell played on these songs. [1]

Miller explained how the Civil War relates to his upbringing of growing up in the South with a father from north of the Mason-Dixon line, and the themes on the album:

My father is Pennsylvania Dutch. Sometimes I felt like we fought that war over and over and over when I was a teenager. A battle of wills. He was the breadwinner who told me what to do, and I was the skinny kid who was mule-stubborn. Much like that war. Two sides who felt they were morally right and bullied and backed themselves into a corner over 80 years until it came to blows. It was stupid. Not glamorous at all. Fought by poor men for rich men. No defense for it. Most of that war was fought in my backyard. There are still trenches all over Virginia, what builders haven’t bulldozed over. How could it not be in my conscious? People died there. [5]

The album features a cover of "Miracle Man", a song by the 1960s psychedelic rock band The Brogues, which Miller said fit in well with the album's themes. [6]

Reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [8]
Associated Press (favorable) [3]
Austin Chronicle Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [2]
The New York Times (extremely favorable) [9]
PopMatters (favorable) [10]

Thus Always to Tyrants received significant praise from a variety of publications. Neil Strauss of the New York Times writes that Miller is "this year's Ryan Adams, a talented singer-songwriter emerging from a cult band (the V-Roys) with an astonishingly good solo album". [9] The Austin Chronicle wrote that the album is "packed with one well-crafted song after another" and that "Miller covers a lot of musical territory. That he does so with a refined touch, in a way that makes you think, certifies him as one of a rare breed of songwriters and makes Thus Always to Tyrants an unqualified success". [2] Miller's ability to combine rock 'n' roll with folk was also commended. [6]

An Associated Press article praised the album by declaring, "This has the feel of a breakout album, one that music fans will look back on and think, 'That's when I knew he was going to be great.'" [3] The Tennessean's review describes the album as "Personal, powerful and jacked up with red-blooded Southern pop intensity". [7] No Depression complimented Miller's singing, and described the album as, "pop hooks, rock rave-ups and campfire melodies galore, showcasing the range of Miller’s influences and his effortless absorption and reconfiguration of them". [5] PopMatters wrote that the "relationship" songs on the album are the strongest, and praised the "catchy roots-pop" and Miller's versatility. [10]

Track listing

SongWriter(s)Length
"Across the Line"Scott Miller4:09
"I Made a Mess of This Town"Scott Miller3:19
"Loving That Girl"Scott Miller4:27
"I Won't Go With You"Scott Miller3:15
"Yes, I Won't"Scott Miller4:24
"Dear Sarah"Scott Miller2:59
"Highland County Boy"Scott Miller2:42
"Absolution"Scott Miller3:20
"Miracle Man" Annette Tucker & Nancie Mantz4:02
"Daddy Raised a Boy"Scott Miller3:00
"Goddamn the Sun"Scott Miller1:53
"Is There Room on the Cross for Me"Scott Miller3:24

Personnel

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References

  1. 1 2 3 Berrier Jr, Ralph (July 7, 2001). "Roots Run Deep For Virginia-Born Musician". The Roanoke Times .
  2. 1 2 3 Caligiuri, Jim (August 3, 2001). "Review: Scott Miller and The Commonwealth". Austin Chronicle . Retrieved 2009-10-18.
  3. 1 2 3 Fidler, Eric (July 27, 2001). "Scott Miller and the Commonwealth , Thus Always to Tyrants". Detroit News. Associated Press.
  4. Nager, Larry (July 27, 2001). "Scott Miller's second act; Leader of lamented V-roys brings new band to Southgate". Cincinnati Enquirer .
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Mayshark, Jesse Fox (July–August 2001). "A Separate Peace". No Depression . Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Armonaitis, Dan (15 June 2001). "Scott Miller Produces Quality Work As Solo Artist". Spartanburg Herald-Journal . Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  7. 1 2 Havighurst, Craig (September 8, 2001). The Tennessean .Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. Duffy, John. "Thus Always to Tyrants > Overview". Allmusic . Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  9. 1 2 Strauss, Neil (December 23, 2001). "Blues and 60's Rock; Classy, Slick Soul". The New York Times . Retrieved 2009-10-18.
  10. 1 2 Oliver, Kevin. "Scott Miller & the Commonwealth". PopMatters . Retrieved 19 January 2010.