Wayne Bledsoe: Scott Miller's 'Codependents' addictive; Jethro Tull's 'Thick As a Brick 2' less so

Scott Miller's EP of songs may have been meant as a placeholder between albums, but it's one of his best works.

Scott Miller's EP of songs may have been meant as a placeholder between albums, but it's one of his best works.

"Codependents," Scott Miller & Rayna Gellert (www.thescottmiller.com)

While Scott Miller works on a new full-length album, he took time to record five songs with fiddler/viola player/vocalist Rayna Gellert.

If it's a warm-up, it may be the warm-up to Miller's best album yet. These five tracks are among Miller's finest work.

The EP achieves an intimacy that Miller has rarely captured on an album. It's unself-consciously modest and natural. Gellert's stringwork is a perfect complement to Miller's vocals and guitar, and nothing more is needed. In fact, anything else might dilute the power of the songs.

"Lo Siento Spanishburg West Virginia" is a bitterly comic portrait of a little community whose final betrayal is due to the town's own charm. New well-heeled retirees turn the town into a place where natives could no longer afford to live.

Miller's cover of Bap Kennedy's "Unforgiven" is so sparse and simple that every word hits home. Even better, though, is Miller's own sweet, sad "Someday Sometime." It's mostly made up of a collection of aphorisms, but each one rings so true that it packs a heartbreaking punch.

On "Lost Not Broken" Miller sings "I hope I'm getting somewhere/I just ain't got there yet."

It sounds like he's getting pretty darn close.

"Thick As a Brick 2," Ian Anderson (Chrysalis)

In 1972, rock band Jethro Tull released arguably the group's best creation, "Thick As a Brick." It was audacious in scope (a single 43-plus minute song that took up both sides of a vinyl album) and playful in execution. The lyrics were attributed to a precocious 8-year-old poet named Gerald "Little Milton" Bostock who was disqualified from winning a poetry award after he "uttered a profanity" on TV. All this and more was chronicled in the album packaging, which looked like a newspaper filled with stories on Bostock and other small town events. The paper and the Bostock story were, of course, jokes, and the album was meant as a send-up of progressive rock concept albums, but the music and lyrics were terrific.

Forty years later, Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson revisits the idea, imagining different possibilities that might have befallen Bostock in the past four decades.

While "TAAB2" (as it's credited on the CD spine) doesn't achieve the arrogant brilliance of the 1972 album, it's Anderson's best complete work in years. There are musical quotes from the original album throughout the new disc, and Anderson has fun imagining Bostock's many possible lifelines. Like the original album, "TAAB2" sparkles with pretty melodies and acoustic instrumentation, juxtaposed with electric rock.

Unlike the original disc, "TAAB2" is broken up into individual songs, although it's best taken as a whole.

Unfortunately, "TAAB2" isn't strong enough to keep you hitting the repeat button, but it's a lovable companion piece to the album that is.

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