Valorie Miller continues to write thought-provoking folk tunes. The newest is “Home of the Brave”, a scorching imprecation upon political and corporate controversy. The song shines a light on the Chemtronics site in Swannanoa, North Carolina, and its odious background. It’s the property that taught many Americans what the term “Superfund site” meant, and “Home of the Brave” lifts a line from the US national anthem while highlighting its dubious history.
From the 1950s through the 1990s, the plant was infamous for developing top-secret chemical weapons, which developed byproducts that would be disposed of across its 1,000-plus acres. Today, the company still retains ownership of the land but has been restricted in its activities. Valorie Miller highlights the site’s damage to her community in striking fashion, with longing guitar tones and a haunting vocal performance. In the music video, Miller mulls through documents pertaining to the Chemtronics site, featuring flashes of the property amidst her performance.
This story has been the basis for developing her new album, Only the Killer Would Know, releasing 6 May via Blackbird/Indie AM Gold. The narrative thread that connects her album comes from her finding that her acre of land in Swannanoa is set beside—if not within—this hazardous, government-controlled area. She dealt with health issues and eventually left the property, uncovering more information about the superfund site some years later.
Of the album’s background, Miller says, “It’s a big, scary, horrible subject, and a lot of these songs grew out of that. There’s not much you can do about those places. They will be toxic for our lifetime and for lifetimes to come. Writing a song is always how I’ve addressed things in my life, but I’ve never had an inspiration quite like this.”