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SCOTT MILLER with David Childers

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Neighborhood Theatre

511 E 36th Street

Charlotte, NC 28205

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Americana / Singer-Songwriter

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Tickets: $15 adv/$17.50 dos (plus sales tax and service fee) *Tickets available online only*

18+ Valid ID required for entry into venue / Under 18 permitted with parent / $3 Under 21 Surcharge at Door - Accepted forms of ID: State Issued ID or Driver's License, Military ID, Passport.

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

DAVID CHILDERS

I first saw David Childers perform on a hot, humid night in July 2000 at the legendary Double Door Inn in Charlotte, NC. Most of the songs he performed that evening were filled with the subject matter of Jesus, damnation, salvation, the devil, forgiveness, and redemption. I will never, ever forget it. It was such an inspiration that the next day I wrote David a personal letter asking him if we could make a record together about those things in which he was singing about. We have been friends ever since. No record or manager contract. Just a handshake.

It is my hope David's greatness as a songwriter and artist will be recognized and appreciated by many in years to come. Please lend an ear to his latest release, ‘Serpents of Reformation,’ and experience for yourself the same power that moved me so, that mesmerizing Summer night some fourteen years ago. -- Dolph Ramseur

**********

MOUNT HOLLY, North Carolina — Singer-songwriter David Childers is the proverbial study in contradictions. A resident of Mount Holly, North Carolina, he’s a former high-school football player with the aw-shucks demeanor of a good ol’ Southern boy. But he’s also a well-read poet and painter who cites Chaucer and Kerouac as influences, fell in love with folk as a teen, listens to jazz and opera, and fed his family by practicing law before turning in his license to concentrate on his creative passions.

The legal profession’s loss is certainly the music world’s gain. Childers’ new album, Run Skeleton Run, releasing May 5, 2017 on Ramseur Records, is filled with the kinds of songs that have made him a favorite of fans and fellow artists including neighbors the Avett Brothers. Scott Avett contributes to four tracks, and Avetts bassist Bob Crawford co-executive-produced the effort with label head Dolph Ramseur. (Crawford and Childers, both history buffs, have recorded and performed together in the Overmountain Men).

In fact, it was Crawford who kickstarted this album, Childers’ sixth solo effort, by suggesting he reunite with Don Dixon (R.E.M., the Smithereens), who’d produced Crawford’s favorite Childers album, Room 23 (done with his band the Modern Don Juans). Crawford also suggested tracking at Mitch Easter’s Fidelitorium Recordings.

“I’ve made records in my living room and been perfectly happy with it. But I think ol’ Bob wanted to give it one more shot,” Childers says. “It’s kind of like the Wild Bunch at the end of the movie, on their last train robbery.”

Not that he’s suggesting this is his “last train robbery.” Not with songs as rich as these. Sounding like literature and playing like little movies — several are under three minutes long — they’re populated by sailors, hermits, lovers and killers, facing off against fate, skeletons, good, evil, or simply the trials of everyday existence. Lust, virtue, guilt, innocence; alienation, desperation, sorrow, gratitude … he examines these conditions with such precision — combined with music that draws on folk, rock, rockabilly, country and Cajun influences — he doesn’t need lengthy exposition.

“You look at a song like ‘Pancho and Lefty’; it tells a story in four stanzas,” Childers notes. “An amazing story. That’s the way I approach songwriting. You don’t have to say so damned much. ‘The train went down, oh lord oh lord.’”

That line is from “Belmont Ford,” a mandolin-laden disaster song about the Great Flood of 1916. It’s based on a poem by Mary Struble Deery, a Chicago friend. The twang- and bluegrass-infused “Collar and Bell” (featuring drums/percussion by his son, Robert, and fiddle by Geoffrey White) had a similar origin; its lyrics are derived from ones written by Shannon Mayes, an Ohio school principal. Another Ohioan, Mark Freeman, shares credit for “Hermit,” a mid-tempo rocker of sorts with Dixon singing harmony, that Freeman started and Childers finished.

“I’m always looking for ideas,” he says. “I’ve never been able to get any serious writers to co-write with me. Here are these folks, just regular people, and they got something to say, and they’re sending me stuff, and I’m going ‘Well, if they’re gonna send it to me, I’m gonna try and do something with it.’”

Childers has always regarded his place in the musical pantheon as that of an outsider, though not deservedly so. As those involved with this album indicate, he’s well-regarded among tastemakers. Evidence includes playing the syndicated World Café and Mountain Stage radio shows (he’s done the latter twice), as well as Merlefest’s mainstage. He’s also toured in Europe, and hopes to again. But he credits the support of Crawford and Ramseur with helping him sustain his musical career — which began in college, though he didn’t start recording until the ’90s.

Childers’ father had given him a banjo when he was 14, but he still had his “jock mentality” back then and didn’t do much with it. That changed when he picked up a guitar at 18.

“My girlfriend had left me for one of my best friends and I was all shook up and needed an outlet besides drinking and fighting. As soon as I learned my first chords on a guitar, I knew I had a friend who would never betray me,” he recalls. He formed his first band, the acoustic trio Steeltree, in 1973, and released his first album, Godzilla! He Done Broke Out!, as David Childers & the Mount Holly Hellcats, in 1995. His first solo album, Time Machine, came in 1998. He spent several years playing rock, folk and honky-tonk with the David Childers Band, then the Modern Don Juans, whose fans included the Avett boys. He calls his current band the Serpents, but says he’s given up trying to label each incarnation.

His last album, 2014’s Serpents of Reformation, delved into religion; this time, several songs address aging and the perspective of a man in review mode — a perspective he sums up on the final track, “Goodbye to Growing Old,” written with Theresa Halfacre. It approaches the subject with a mix of acceptance and defiance.

Well, it’s mostly just a state of mind/And I ain’t about to say that it’s time/To surrender to anything. Anything. Anything, he sings, driving home his points with harmonica and his own layered harmony.

“I used to be afraid of growing old, but now I wouldn’t trade where I am for all the lean fury of my youth,” Childers insists, saying he’s happier now than he’s ever been. Especially now that he can concentrate on making music and painting; he and Robert did the album cover, a fine example of his primitive/outsider style.

He’s also considering adding memoirs to his publishing credits, which include two books of poetry. And there’s gardening, and dogs and cats, to tend. Yep, life’s pretty good for the man Crawford likes to call “the sage of Mount Holly.”

Crawford has also called Childers “a great friend, a great thinker and a great man … a true North Carolina treasure.”

But let’s take out “North Carolina,” because Childers is the kind of treasure who can spread joy wherever people love listening to great songs. In other words, just about anywhere. Or everywhere.

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511 E 36th Street

Charlotte, NC 28205

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