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The Daily Tar Heel

This doesn't seem to be a harsh transition, however, for ex-V-Roys frontman Scott Miller and his band, The Commonwealth, on their first studio release, "Thus Always to Tyrants."

The first single, "I Made A Mess of This Town," features big open-chord electric guitar strumming and a harmonica solo performed by Miller. Like most of the songs on the album, Miller attacks "I Made A Mess of This Town" with an energy and fervor that is rarely encapsulated in a studio release.

"Absolution" and "Goddamn the Sun" best typify this exuberance. The guitar chording of "Absolution" gives the tune spunk, while the drumming gives the song a living, breathing pulse. "Goddamn the Sun" carries on much the same way, with a driving guitar riff and a distorted solo that should put a smile on every rock listener's face.

Having grown up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Miller wrote "Thus Always to Tyrants" about living in his home state. No album that centers on life in Virginia can be complete without paying homage to the state's Civil War soldiers.

Miller does so in "Highland County Boy" and "Dear Sarah." "Highland County Boy" tells of a young boy named William whose brothers join "the cause" while William is "much too frail to fight." The track features Miller on harmonica and vocal with only a fiddle and percussion for accompaniment.

"Dear Sarah" is a letter in which the writer details his devotion and longing to return to his wife during the War Between the States. Banjo, fiddle, acoustic guitar and bass are the only instruments used in this arrangement.

These more relaxed, stripped-down tunes show that Miller is more than just a raucous, exuberant singer and electric guitar player.

While most of Miller's songs exhibit his fervor for performance, "Miracle Man" falls flat. It features the same distorted guitar as most of the other songs on the album, but its rhythm sounds like a booty call's soundtrack gone awry, and the crescendo to the chorus does not work in the context of the album.

Though "Miracle Man" is a chink in the armor, "Thus Always to Tyrants" is a solid record that showcases the talents of frontman Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, proving that life as a solo artist after success in a band is not so bad after all.

Scott Miller and the Commonwealth will be having their CD release party for "Thus Always to Tyrants" Saturday at the Cat's Cradle. Call 967-9053 or visit for details.

Jonathan Miller can be reached at

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