Justice of the Peach
Singer/songwriter Gregg McMillan knows that the difficulty of love, loss, regret, and despair is best served simply. On "Justice of the Peach," McMillan's latest CD, the singer takes you through a classic acoustic catalogue of rumination and introspection that proves that while his lovers' hearts may not be in the right place, his is. Sounding a bit like Harvest-era Neil Young, McMillan runs love's gauntlet with quixotic Southern sensibility: Down here, love makes art, or at least makes great music. The strongest cut, "Where Were You When I Wrecked My Car," is also the simplest one. Likening love to a car crash, McMillan ends up in a rash of asphalt that scars with humor as it attempts to locate the heart. Where is it? In someone else's bed, naturally. McMillan is a veteran of the Southern country-rock scene and his graveled sound and sweet stringwork come together in what sounds like a celebration, not a lament. It's a special place that McMillan obviously knows well and he navigates it with all the joy and pain you might expect. The guy's got a hole in his heart as big as Dixie and he plugs it with straight-up Southern charm. Music fans in the Southeast may remember the Dixie Desperados, the Southern rock band that shared the bill with Pure Prairie League, Molly Hatchet, The Allman Brothers, Three Dog Night, Pat Travers, and Charlie Daniels. The Desperados came from Gainesville, Florida, the college town that was also home base for Tom Petty, Bo Diddley, and Bernie Leadon of the Eagles. Original Desperado Gregg McMillan left Gainesville for Nashville in the 1980s and spent ten years in the Nashville songwriting community and in the post- cow-punk/pre-alt-country music scene. His first, self-titled, solo CD reflected the transition from the hard-rocking Desperados to a more stripped-down, introspective sound. The experience of working alongside country legends in the Music City opened new avenues of musical exploration for Gregg. From his Southern rock roots, Gregg branched out into country, countrified rock, folk, and blues, using each as a medium for personal expression and emotional revelation. Gregg was a kid growing up in Gainesville when Gainesville was birthing it's own brand of Southern rock; it was then that Gregg started learning guitar. By the early 1970s he'd formed his own band with Nancy Luca before twice playing major tours with national headliners. Back in Florida after the decade in Nashville, Gregg became a singer-songwriter on the regional folk circuit, playing clubs and festivals and sitting in with a diverse group of musicians at the area's premier music venues. His second solo CD, "Justice of the Peach" was released in 2010. In an exploration of classic country themes meshed with truisms of personal experience and identity, Gregg chases love, loss, melancholy, and the freight of existence with simple melody and moody pedal steel guitar. "It's just a love game...playing it every day," he sings, his voice slightly raw and weary from the repetition. The CD is a memory play of the independent man who looks for something so long that the search becomes the story, and Gregg tells it by keeping unselfconsciously in touch with the material. Although his present home is in Macon, Gregg may cross the border to Gainesville once again; "crossing the border" is what they call it down here, setting the place apart from everywhere else the way the music that came from Gainesville in the 1960s and 1970s was set apart from the commercial mainstream of the time. Gregg McMillan brings that musical legacy forward, bridging the past with a present affirmation that sounds uncompromisingly honest, with simple structures that let the lyrics loose into the listener's space. --Suzanna Mars.