Steve Earle calls Buddy Miller his “favorite country singer, period.” In his short time in Nashville, he has exploded on the alt-country scene, proving himself as one of the finest upcoming players, songwriters, and producers to hit that town in many years. Both Earle and Emmylou Harris felt strongly enough about his multi-instrumentalist playing abilities to enlist him in their El Corazon and Spyboy tours. Harris even respected his ear enough to have him co-produce an album of hers. In addition, he had some of his songs picked up for inclusion on recent albums by the Dixie Chicks, Brooks and Dunn, Hank Williams III, and Lee Ann Womack. He won the Guitarist of the Year Award in the last Nashville Music Awards, and is currently one of the more sought-after producers in the business.
“Real” country music has often been called “the white man’s blues.” This is where Miller’s true strength lies. He avoids the clichés and the over-produced, watered-down pop treatments that are so prevalent in much of what passes as country music these days. His heartfelt songs (which are often penned with his wife Julie, who is a force in her own right), are as-hard-core country as they come. He is also not afraid to incorporate his strong R&B sensibilities into a genre of music that has too often been devoid of any real soul. Altogether, it makes for a mix that promises to take country back to its rightful place as an artform, rather than the formulaic craft that it has mostly become.
This release showcases a number of Buddy and Julie Miller songs, as well as covers of Gene Pitney, Steve Earle, and Staple Singers songs. The selections range from mournful or beautiful ballads to rollicking swamp-rockers, and include guest appearances by wife Julie, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Jim Lauderdale, and Joy Lynn White. Buddy displays his skills on guitar, banjo, and bass, and of course his always passionate vocals. The backing band consists of Byron House and Alison Prestwood trading out on bass, John Gardner, Bryan Owings, and Don Heffington taking turns on drums, Phil Madeira and Steve Fishell on keyboards, Al Perkins on steel guitar, and Tammy Rogers on fiddle. This is a full and honest measure of pure honky-tonk. Some of the best I’ve heard since Gary Stewart in his early 70’s Out Of Hand days .
Hightone Records, 220 4th St. #101, Oakland, CA 94607; http://www.hightone.com