Music Reviews

Buddy Miller

Midnight And Lonesome


There’s a certain formula that goes into making a Buddy Miller record. And Midnight And Lonesome has all the ingredients you’d expect from this alt-country guitar picker who has worked with Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle. But there are a few surprises along the way, as well.

First, kick things off with a familiar, upbeat cover tune. In this case, it’s The Everly Brothers’ “The Price of Love.” If you know Buddy’s nasal vocal style, you can just imagine him singing the lines “Wine is sweet and gin is bitter / Drink all you can but you won’t forget her.”

Next, find an old soul tune to countrify (in this case Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love”). Miller has more soul than 98 percent of the artists out there today. He also covers the Jesse Winchester tune “A Showman’s Life” and knocks it out of the park in the same way he did Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis” on his 1995 record, Your Love and Other Lies. Emmylou Harris guests on backing vocals as Miller sings, “A showman’s life is a smokey bar / And the fevered chase of a tiny star / It’s a hotel room and a lonely wife / From what I’ve seen of a showman’s life.”

Fortunately, Miller himself is seldom alone on the road. Wife Julie frequently shares the stage with him, and contributes tunes to the records as well. Here she offers the sweet ballad “I Can’t Get Over You” (with guest Lee Ann Womack), the swampy blues rocking title track, and the cajun fried “Oh Fait Pitie D’Amour (Love Have Mercy on Me),” among others. The pair also co-write cutesy, cornball odes to domesticity like this album’s fiddle-tinged, Hank Williams-like “Wild Card” and “Little Bitty Kiss.” “Water When the Well is Dry” is a great tune Buddy penned with Vigilantes Of Love leader Bill Mallonee. Miller plays harmonica on the track and drummer Brady Blade’s excellent skins work gooses things along.

The record’s biggest surprise may be “When It Comes to You,” which Buddy and Julie co-wrote with old pal Jim Lauderdale. It’s genuine old school, lo-fi soul music with a cheesy-sounding Optigan toy organ, a distorted vocal, and Al Perkins stellar pedal steel playing. “I got more than forty different grooves / And twice as many moves / I’ll be a cool rocking daddy that’s who,” Buddy sings.

Midnight And Lonesome ends with a late addition to the record. On the July day Miller wrapped up work on the disc, the miraculous rescue of nine miners in Pennsylvania was playing out on TV. Julie penned “Quecreek” in honor of the occasion, and the two recorded the song later that day. It’s a spiritual mountain ballad that deserves to become a standard. “And the miners were buried three nights and three days / But like Jesus Sunday morning all nine men were raised,” the Millers’ sing.

So if you’ve heard a Buddy Miller record before, Midnight And Lonesome will sound like an old friend. And if you haven’t, this one is a great introduction to an immensely talented singer-songwriter.

Hightone Records: • Buddy and Julie Miller:

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