The family that sings together swings together. If that family is the Millers, they do more than just swing; they rock, shimmy, shake, frug, gyrate, and quiver.
For readers unfamiliar with this dynamic domestic duo, Buddy Miller is a sideman extraordinaire, lately with Emmylou Harris’ Spyboy band, where he not only supplied blistering hot guitar licks but impeccable backup vocals.
Julie Miller fattens their connubial checkbook with songwriting royalties for singers like the Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Womack, Little Jimmy Scott, and Hank Williams III.
She has also recorded two solo albums, while Buddy has three, all on Hightone records. This is their first duo album, and after a listen or two you will wonder why they waited so long.
Julie and Buddy serve up hardcore roots country music spiced with modernity that sounds both new and ancient. Their music demonstrates a complete understanding of what makes music primal and vibrant. Beginning with their treatment of the Richard Thompson gem “Keep Your Distance,” the Millers deliver a edgy performance that reminds me of the last stormy days of Richard’s musical partnership with his ex-wife, Linda. Eight original songs, seven by Julie, and one Miller collaboration, join tunes by Utah Phillips, Richard Thompson, and Bob Dylan. My favorite original is “You Make My Heart Beat too Fast,” a nasty number that is a musical amalgamation of country, garage, and swamp rock, with a touch of punk thrown in for attitude. Buddy contributes a screaming, snarling guitar solo that would make even Keith Richards jealous.
To further enhance the intimate homegrown feeling of this CD, it was recorded in Buddy’s home studio (affectionately named “Dogtown”). Spyboy bandmate/drummer Brady Blade joins Gary Talent, Byron House, Joey Spampinato, and Rick Plant on bass, Phil Madeira on Hammond B-3, and Tammy Rodgers on mandolin. Buddy and Julie handle the lead vocals, and Buddy performs all the guitar tracks. Emmylou Harris adds her uniquely melodious harmonies on “Forever Has Come to an End.”
Buddy and Julie Miller is so musically addictive it’s hard to let a day go by without putting it into a CD player. But unlike chocolate or cognac, if you binge, it will only do you good!
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.