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Buddy Miller

MIDNIGHT AND LONESOME (Hightone)  •  Buddy Miller

It's an interesting experience putting on a CD for review that you already know is going to be great. How do I know? It's Buddy Miller, man. His greatness doesn't have anything to do with what label he's working with, or what producer, or what bunch of musicians. He can be and do it all his own self. Okay, he needs Julie, and I'm sure he'd be the first one to tell you that. (And she'd be a close second, could be a photo finish.)

Wow! I'm on tune five of my first pass, and on comes a whole new groove and sound for Buddy, "When It Comes to You." Where's those liner notes--of course, Jim Lauderdale's in the mix on this one, alt country's most enlightened knucklehead. What an amazing talent. The combination of he and the Millers is a real brain and soul trust. Add Al Perkins on the steel, that's pure heaven. Interesting bottom on that tune, too--that's a drum machine and Buddy on the Taurus bass pedals, hmm... Don't get me wrong, Rick Plant on bass and Brian Owings on drums have become a big part of this band and sound wicked on the record. Brady Blade (who is Buddy's partner in Emmy Lou's band) also plays many superb drum tracks. Larry Campbell from Dylan's band contributes memorably on fiddle and steel, and cameos include Byron House on bass, Tammy Rogers on fiddle, Phil Madeira on Hammond B3 and melodica, Fats Kaplan on accordion, and two of the greats on vocals, Lee Ann Womack and Emmy Lou Harris.

Aside from tunes that Buddy or Julie wrote alone or ones they wrote together, there are covers by the Everly Brothers, a good song that Buddy wrote with his friend Bill Mallonee of the Vigilantes of Love, a Percy Mayfield classic, and a great Jesse Winchester number that he tears down the middle, "A Showman's Life." When people talk about what a great guitar player Buddy Miller is without saying he sings his ass off, they don't do him justice.

As their legend grows with each recording and every tour, Buddy and Julie become almost archetypal. They're well known believers, and their spiritual quality gives the archetype depth. Their self-effacing personalities allow all the accolades to ring true. Just look at the cover of Midnight and Lonesome. Buddy's sitting against the wall on what seems to be a porch. His face is way out of focus, but the sole of his boot is in focus. He's surrounded by an assortment of ceramic figures, a dog and a chicken and some others. Although he's out of focus on the cover, on the back panel is a different ceramic dog, in sharp focus, crystal clear.

Buddy and Julie Miller are not your typical anything. A record at a time, they've become the paradigm. • FG

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