Scott Miller (Album Release Show)

The Grey Eagle and Worthwhile Sounds Present

Scott Miller (Album Release Show)

Angela Easterling

Fri, November 17, 2017

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

$15.00 - $18.00

This event is all ages

SEATED SHOW

Scott Miller
Scott Miller
“I wanted to call this record Thalia and Melpomene after the Greek muses (the smiley/frowny faces of the theatre) but my manager Kathi Whitley said, ‘You call this record THAT and I quit.’”

So says Scott Miller of his tenth studio record since leaving the V-Roys, the 1990s Knoxville-based thinking-man’s party band. The V-Roys caught the ear of Steve Earle, who signed them to his somewhat ephemeral E-Squared label. Band and label collapsed at about the same time. Miller has survived a health scare, scaled back his erstwhile stoically-crazed lifestyle, hightailed it from the city lights of Knoxville, and taken up the life of a cattleman on his family’s Shenandoah Valley ranch. Somehow amid all that, this record is his tenth release under his own name, or that of his post V-Roys band, the Commonwealth.

After junking that Clash of the Titans title, Miller settled on the name Ladies Auxiliary, thanks to the simple fact that everyone involved, save Miller himself, is, in fact, a lady. The A-list of XX-chromosomers includes Whitley and the entire band: Bryn Davies, Rayna Gellert, Jen Gunderman, Deanie Richardson, and Megan Carchman. The record was also produced (and performed on by) Anne McCue, who brings a smidgen of vintage Django jazz and Charlie Christian swing to the arrangements.

In “Lo Siento”, we have an instant Americana classic. As an eloquent lament of the ongoing downward spiral of the working class – and hell, American protest songs in general – this track stands toe to toe with any that has come before it. As someone who grew up in both Tennessee and Texas, I see it as an Appalachian analogue to North Texas / Great Plains songs like James McMurtry’s one-two punch of “Choctaw Bingo” and “We Can’t Make It Here”.

The Dylan-esque quasi-talking blues, incanted as a litany, “Lo Siento” takes on the travails of Spanishburg, West Virginia, a dying town recently rejuvenated by the arrival of hordes of wealthy retirees streaming down from the DC suburbs.

“There’s a lot of Northern Virginians who are retiring and there are towns like the one where my grandmother grew up — Clifton Forge, Virginia (which by the way I’ve always thought would make a great name for a country singer) — but those baby boomers are coming down here after they’ve worked for 25 years for the government and gotten their pensions,” Miller says.

“Someday / Sometime” finds Miller putting himself in the shoes of the father of a late friend of his, “an incredibly smart, talented, pretty girl I grew up with who sealed up her garage, started her car and asphyxiated herself, leaving twin 8 year old girls.”

Miller initially balked at telling the song’s backstory “because I hate it when people introduce songs that are about suicide, because it’s like ‘What the hell, we are already here listening to an earnest singer-songwriter, do you really need to bring us down even more?’”

Most of the collection covers more humorous ground. There’s “Mother-in-Law”, an amusing nightmare that should have those of us not married to a spouse whose mother steals sugar packets at restaurants, whines about spicy home cooking, and whose unshod feet could choke a billygoat, feel fortunate. It’s one of two covers on the ten-song album. The other cover, “With Body and Soul”, finds us back in primordial Appalachia, the Celtic strains still readily apparent in a Scots-Irish dirge made famous by Bill Monroe, though written by Virginia Stauffer, a Michigan-born Nashville songwriter / Murfreesboro Road trailer park manager (and honorary member of the Ladies Auxiliary) Monroe called “Gypsy”. In addition to the covers, there’s also a co-write: “Ten Miles Down the Nine Mile Road”, which found Miller partnering up with Robin & Linda Williams for a kitchen table writing session.

“I don’t think any of us think it’s finished but it’s pretty close,” he says. “’Pleasing the unpleasable’ is a life goal/bad habit I possess. Makes for good songs anyway.”

“Middle Man”, also known as the “Scott Miller Theory of Relativity,” finds Miller waxing blatantly and uncharacteristically autobiographical. It’s a story of a rural kid who went to a school where the first day of hunting season was a holiday, where his TV could pick up only two stations, if it was cloudy enough. Miller turned first to books (the whole family read all the time), and then painting, and then learned to play three chords on the guitar and started telling truths.

“Being well-read with a spark of wanting to be heard meant I didn’t really fit in with what was normal in Swoope, Virginia,” Miller says. “Cry me a river, right? Who DOES fit in when they are a teenager?”

Miller’s “Epic Love” sounds like something Miller’s hero and fellow Shenandoah Valley native Sam Houston would have written in his younger and wilder days, and Miller’s Shenandoah Valley cattleman side comes through on “This River’s Mine / This Valley’s Yours”.

“I’ll take a river through some mountains over the ocean any day, any season, any time, just for the metaphor alone,” he says. “My home county (Augusta) is the largest in the Commonwealth, and has the largest cow-to-people ratio of any county east of the Mississippi. There are no rivers that flow into it. It’s the headwaters of the Shenandoah River (flowing north to the Potomac) and the James River (east to the Chesapeake Bay.) We start everything, baby.”

“I’ve been told my songs have time bombs in ‘em,” he says. “I met this playwright when I was playing in DC a couple of weeks ago and she was all gaga over my writing and she told me ‘It sounds so simple but it’s so complex,’ and that comes from all my love and study of modernist poetry, all these subtle allusions to Sanskrit and [crap] like that,” he says. “I like to pack that [stuff] in there naively thinking that people will get it. But they don’t, and that’s why my career sits where it does. Maybe 10,000 years from now they will be regarded like Cicero’s letters, but I don’t know…”

– Bio by John Nova Lomax, Senior Editor, Texas Monthly
Angela Easterling
Angela Easterling
With her new album, “Common Law Wife,” acclaimed Americana singer-songwriter Angela Easterling – once hailed by Byrds co-founder Roger McGuinn as “a bright shining star on the horizon” – clearly spells out the direction her life has taken in recent years.

“Now I’m a common law wife, living out my life/I ain’t got no license, I’m a common law wife,” Easterling sings on the classic country-styled title track, joyfully explaining the relationship she now has with her longtime musical collaborator Brandon Turner.

Recorded with Joe Pisapia (Guster, k.d. lang, Drew Holcomb) at his Middletree Studios in Nashville, “Common Law Wife” – in addition to sparkling multi-instrumental performances by Turner – features some of Music City’s finest musicians, including Will Kimbrough, Fats Kaplin, Dave Jacques and Paul Griffith.

In her typical straightforward fashion, Easterling further reveals how she and Turner arrived at their “common law” arrangement with such lines as “You’d think I’d learned my lesson ‘bout those birds and those bees/Well, imagine my surprise then, when the stork came to my door.”

Easterling lives with her partner and their toddler son on the Greer, S.C., farm that has been in her family since 1791, specifically in the house that her World War II veteran grandfather built on the property several decades ago.

Motherhood, Easterling says, “is definitely the biggest inspiration for songwriting I’ve ever had,” a statement that’s evident throughout “Common Law Wife,” which collectively offers quite a few lyrics that celebrate the arrival of her first child, and explores the complexities, struggles and joys of her experience.

But don’t think for a moment that becoming a mother has softened Easterling’s musical perspective. “Common Law Wife” is also loaded with songs that tackle plenty of non-gentle subjects ranging from murder to civil rights.

Among the album’s highlights is “Isaac Woodard’s Eyes,” which Easterling was inspired to write after learning about the real life story of an African-American World War II veteran who was savagely beaten and blinded by police officers in South Carolina just hours after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1946.

“Civil rights history is something that’s always touched my heart and hit home for me,” Easterling says. “That story, which happened in my home state, is something that seems unimaginable, yet I believe it’s still relevant in our modern life.”

And then there’s the leadoff track, “Hammer,” the writing of which was completed on the day that folk music icon Pete Seeger died and was inspired by the work ethic of both him and Easterling’s aforementioned grandfather, Harold Hammett.

“It’s really hard to sit around and binge-watch Netflix when you’re living in a house that Harold Hammett built!” Easterling says. “Whenever I’m here, I feel like I need to get up and do something, to get to work.”

“And I found Pete Seeger, who was someone I looked up to as a hero, to have a similar spirit to my grandfather in that he was always out there working for the things he believed in.”

“Common Law Wife” also features Easterling singing a duet with Will Kimbrough, who produced two of her previous albums. The song, “Aching Heart,” by the way, is her young son’s favorite. Another sweet spot is “Table Rock”, a joyful celebration of life only getting better as one gets older.

In “Throwing Strikes,” Easterling, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan, uses baseball imagery to help paint a picture of the despair felt in communities where once-thriving mills have been abandoned. The baseball concept, she says, was inspired by a lyric (“a vandal’s smile, a baseball in his right hand”) in Jason Isbell’s song, “Relatively Easy.” She calls her own song, which has an early Steve Earle/Bruce Springsteen vibe, a “David and Goliath story.”

“Goliath isn’t necessarily the mill but the powers-that-be that move these jobs overseas, and also the workings of the universe that lead some people to be successful and some not to be successful,” she says. “It’s that helpless feeling, like you’re up against a brick wall, and you’re trying your best and not getting anywhere.”

Throughout her career, beginning with her 2007 debut album, “Earning Her Wings,” which was chosen as “Americana Pick of the Year” by Smart Choice Music,” Easterling has embraced her heritage in a big way as a writer and an artist.

Her second album, 2009’s “BlackTop Road,” debuted on the Americana Top 40 chart, where it remained for seven weeks, and it was chosen as a top pick in both Oxford American and Country Weekly. One of its songs, “The Picture,” was named the year’s “best political country song” by the Boston Herald.

Easterling’s other albums include 2011’s “Beguiler,” which featured special guest Byron House (Robert Plant’s Band of Joy), and 2012’s “Mon Secret,” which is notable for being sung entirely in French with original songs by Easterling and her co-writer, Marianne Bessy.

Recognized as a top-notch songwriter in roots music circles, Easterling was selected for an official Americana Convention Showcase and is also a three-time Kerrville New Folk Finalist (2009, 2010, 2015), a Telluride Troubadour (2011) and a two-time Wildflower Performing Songwriter Finalist (2012, 2015).

Easterling was invited to appear on the WSM-hosted stage at CMA Music Festival/Fan Fair, where her entire set was broadcast live, and she has appeared on the nationally broadcast public radio program, “Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know,” the popular ETV show, “Making It Grow,” and has been interviewed by noted NPR journalist Bob Edwards.

Over the years, Easterling has opened for or appeared on stage with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sarah Jarosz, Lucinda Williams, Charlie Louvin, Elizabeth Cook, Robbie Fulks, Mary Gauthier, Ray Price, Suzy Bogguss, Ellis Paul, Radney Foster, the Oak Ridge Boys and Lori McKenna.
Venue Information:
The Grey Eagle
185 Clingman Ave
Asheville, NC, 28801
http://www.thegreyeagle.com/