Monday, January 30, 2006

Buddy Miller -- Universal United House of Prayer

I had so many exceptional surprises last year when it came to seeing artists I knew absolutely nothing about. Buddy Miller was definitely a stand out performance. He's been playing since his teens in Ohio and then in Nashville and all over the world; sometimes with his wife and fellow musician/writer Julie Miller and sometimes with Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, or his own band featuring some "tear it up" gospel singers, the McCrary sisters. He released "Your Love and Other Lies" to little critical acclaim in 1995.

There's an affinity with Buddy's music that cuts to the core on this CD. This is one stand-up musician admired by legions of Nashville writers and performers. When it came down to it, he figured that his remake of the 1960's Dylan hit "With God on Our Side" had to be included. Clocking in at more than nine minutes, it was a long shot but the song really holds up in concert and on the CD with Buddy's long drawling tenor accentuating all that can go wrong with religion. He's been writing Christian Country music with strong themes that are at times both clever and harsh. Make no mistake, though, Buddy doesn't write harmonic, gushy, Christian music: his music has a defiant edge.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Lonesome Bob at the Buddy Miller show. As fate would have it, the hulking mass stood next to me at the bar, hanging on every word and relating his personal kinship with Buddy. Lonesome Bob lived in Nashville for a good many years and has released a very personal, searing, CD recounting the death of his son.

"That Buddy," Lonesome Bob quipped before the show started,"he's a really stand up guy. Everyone loves him. I feel so much when I get to see him. His lyrics are hard to beat." I had only asked Bob if the guy was any good.

And yes, Bob was right. Buddy can write and sing some awfully powerful lyrics that, in the hands of lesser figures, might come off wishy washy or preachy. Buddy connects with the audience in a way that overcomes the Christian messages. His band is tight and complementary, pausing to let him drawl out one long Texan note and then rushing to catch up with the audience's admiration. He gets inside of a feeling and stays there only long enough to rush the crowd into the next thought. I must say, Buddy Miller can play the guitar like a heartstring, hammering into a deep tremolo that sits inside of you like an eggshell waiting to be cracked.

Buddy started out in Austin, Texas, with the likes of Shawn Colvin singing backup for him in Partners in Crime. Maybe that's where Shawn learned those lilting harmonies couched by sharp punctuation of a flat note.

He grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and traveled to Austin, Texas, where he met Julie, his wife. He's spent time writing and performing in Austin, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, and finally Nashville. Brooks and Dunn recorded Buddy's "My Love Will Follow You" which secured him financially and continued his dream of writing and producing albums.

Perhaps I liked Buddy for his charismatic style and gentle gnawing on the Bush administration's right wing televangelism. Buddy's on a mission with this CD and he aims to set the record straight when it comes to abusing religion in the name of politics and war.

Sometimes, when researching an artist, I find a nugget worthy of repeating. Apparently, Buddy's brother-in-law was struck by lightning and died 20 years to the day after he suffered nearly deadly injuries in a motorcycle accident at exactly the same spot. Eerie and infusing this CD with its uncanny look at religion and life purpose.

This is a gritty, heartful, CD full of purpose and human spirit. You can't help but love the guy. I had been hearing for years how I "had to get out and see Buddy and Julie Miller." Little did I know just what a show I was missing. You can see and hear Buddy here:


Blogger Anonymous said...

You are linked up to The Cosmic American. loves Buddy Miller.

9:20 PM  

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