In the wake of the breakup of Knoxville rockers the V-roys, band member Scott Miller steps out on his own via Sugar Hill, and the result is arguably the best roots-rock album of the year.

In the wake of the breakup of Knoxville rockers the V-roys, band member Scott Miller steps out on his own via Sugar Hill, and the result is arguably the best roots-rock album of the year. Time spent with "Twangtrust" producer Steve Earle on V-roys albums has obviously influenced Miller, as the latter's music is very much in the Earle vein—boasting killer lyrics, accessible melodies, and often brutal honesty. The pounding "Across the Line" blends classic rock guitars and contemporary production, and "I Made a Mess of This Town" is a swampy take on bridges burned. Such cuts as the catchy "Loving That Girl" and the slightly funky "Won't Go With Me" would work quite well on modern rock radio, and the Civil War-era timepieces "Dear Sarah" and "Highland Country Boy" are about as traditional as it gets. Miller opts for unflinching self-examination on such cuts as the manic drinking song "Absolution" and the father/son gut punch "Daddy Raised a Boy." Thus Always to Tyrants is a most impressive debut from an artist that has likely just scratched the surface of his potential.—RW

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