Rhett Miller: City Winery 4 February 2019

The week was going to be good because it was going to be a Rhett Miller/Ben Nichols sandwich – Rhett on Monday and Ben on Saturday.

Rhett was playing at City Winery and Mrs Devereaux had gotten us (me, rtb, peg, violaleeblue, Peter) our favorite table next to soundboard. Unfortunately, Mrs Devereaux did not feel well and did not join us that evening.

The opener was Jeff Slate (acoustic guitar) with Mark Bosch joining on electric guitar. Bosch has been the guitarist for a lot of artists including Ian Hunter, which, for me, made him the more interesting of the two. But his sparkling guitar looked like it belonged to a 5yo girl. On stage, physically, they made me think of Neil Young (Bosch) and Eric Bogosian (Slate).

They started with Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” and later played George Harrison’s “Isn’t It a Pity?” I thought Bosch’s solo for “Isn’t It a Pity” fought against the lyrics and melody and was not sure if that worked for me or not. Interestingly, Slate referred to both as Traveling Wilburys songs, which was kind of true if you looked at the Wilburys as individuals and not as a group. He also performed “Duncan and Brady” (a traditional murder ballad made famous by Leadbelly) that has the line “Gonna shoot somebody jus’ to see the die” and Peter was disappointed to realize that Johnny Cash may have stolen that line. I looked it up and Cash claims to have come up with the line for “Folsom Prison Blues” on his own. Slate also played several of his own songs.


Despite the fact that he does not drink anymore, Rhett was chatty. And, lucky for us, he was pulling songs from deep in the catalog. One of the joys of watching Rhett solo or Ben solo is that you get to hear songs that their bands normally do not play anymore.

We heard stories about his time on an Outlaw Cruise, which had us laughing a lot. He read three poems from his new children’s book No More Poems. For “Brotherly Love” the editors asked him to tone down the violence a bit, so that will give you some idea of the poems, although the difference between the original, which he told us, and published versions was not much. Rhett is supposed to go to schools and read from the book and they suggested he play some songs and his response was, “What songs of mine could I possibly play for 4th graders?”

His mother was in the audience and he told a “Barrier Reef” story. Years ago, I had read that his father (a lawyer), after introducing himself in court, would sometimes be asked if he was a serial lady killer. When Rhett writes songs, he’s playing a character. The narrator is not him. And when he wrote “Barrier Reef” he hesitantly played it for his mother. It was difficult to claim the song was not about him since he identifies himself in the song – “My name is Stewart Ransom Miller and I’m a serial lady killer.” His mother asked him to play it again. And then she told Rhett that the song is about his father and how he acted after she and he had divorced. Which made sense – Rhett is the II, not the original.

As he has been doing, “American Girl” morphed into “Timebomb.” It was another fun night hearing some new songs and getting reacquainted with some old ones. And it was fun to introduce someone new (peg) the beauty and wonder that is Rhett Miller.




Give It Time
I Use to Write in Notebooks
Wheels Off
I Need to Know Where I Stand
Dance with Me
Book of Poems
Most Messed Up
Manhattan (I’m Done)
My Two Feet
Close Most of the Time
Barrier Reef
Good with God
Total Disaster
Here’s to the Halcyon
Longer Than You’ve Been Alive

Jesus Loves You
American Girl

By Carene Lydia Lopez