The songs and albums of songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Scott Miller have always possessed a strong sense of place. Citation, Miller's third release with Sugar Hill Records, is no exception. It sports songs that emerge, breathing heavy, from the broken-in seats of the vehicle that gives the album its name (one interpretation of the title, anyway) and that roar down the highway, songs set stateside and on battlefields, songs that seem to spring from the pages of historical biographies. And, perhaps ironically or perhaps fittingly, he had to go two different places to create the album. First was the Fort Sanders area of Knoxville, just west of downtown, where Miller rented an apartment to write songs for the album. And then he traveled to Memphis to work with legendary producer, musician, and character Jim Dickinson.
In the '70s, the Fort Sanders area had an active arts and music scene, but 30 years and short memories have conspired to steal the vibrancy. "Old mansions knocked down, burned up, and replaced with giant apartment buildings. The streets filled not by hillbilly hippies, but by rich kids with healthy hair, perfect teeth, their parent’s SUVs, and their arms permanently bent up to their ears holding cell phones," is Miller's description. "By going back there, maybe I was looking for some kind of lost inspiration." The songs that Miller wrote while staying in the room that he dubbed "the Maid's Quarters" suggest that he found what he was looking for, be it courtesy of the ghost of one of those hillbilly hippies or of Miller making the time to tap into his rich experiences and boundless curiosity. "Freedom's a Stranger," jokingly dubbed "Summer of '89" by Miller, moves from Springsteen tapes in steamed-up cars to mortgages as a way to express the passing of time while trying to ward off the dousing of dreams. For "The Only Road," he accepted a chorus offered to him by Maid's Quarter visitor and former V-roys mate Mic Harrison and built a memorable, tragic tale around it. The lively "Say Ho" is about Sam Houston, who, as history and Virginia buff Miller is quick to point out, "was a Virginian, an East Tennessean, and then a Texan. Don’t forget it."