Archive for the Buddy and Julie Miller Category

Top 20 of 2009: 9-7

Posted in Buddy and Julie Miller, Neko Case, Those Darlins, Top 20 of 2009 on January 2, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I’ve fallen a little behind over the Holidays, but I’m going to try to get back on track and get the list finished up soon. We’ll start back today with #9.

#9 – Written in Chalk by Buddy & Julie Miller

Based solely on critical acclaim and awards, this would be the number one album on the list… hands down. Buddy & Julie nearly swept the Americana Music Awards in September. The husband and wife team captured awards for Duo/Group of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year for “Chalk” (with Patty Griffin). Buddy also walked away with the Artist of the Year trophy as a solo prize. I obviously liked the CD when it came out back in the spring, but it was amazing to see just how this thing took off. It was the most played album on Americana Radio this year.

The album is not simply a Buddy and Julie Miller duet project as the title would suggest. They do, however, sing together in a few places… including the wistful “Ellis County” and the lustful “Gasoline & Matches.” There are other collaborations here as well, and they are what makes this album stand apart from Buddy and Julie’s 2001 self titled release (also an Americana Album of the Year winner). Patty Griffin lends her angelic voice to the previously mentioned “Chalk” with Buddy and “Don’t Say Goodbye” with Julie. Emmylou Harris and The McCrary Sisters pop up in a few places too. I’ll share one here with you featuring a duet with Buddy Miller and Robert Plant… two iconic voices.

Buddy & Julie Miller (feat. Robert Plant): What You Gonna Do Leroy? (Buy Album)

#8 – Those Darlins by Those Darlins

What can you say about Those Darlins? The band is fronted by three country gals with a punk rock spirit who go by the names of Jessi, Kelley, and Nikki Darlin (not their real surnames). They are known for raising ruckuses, inciting riots, and causing general chaos whenever and wherever they perform. In fact, their recent tour to support the release of their self titled debut album was called the “Dare America Tour.” During shows they openly encouraged their audiences to abandon all inhibitions and enjoy themselves as much as possible (they talked about it a bit when I interviewed them back in August). This record is about as fun as music can possibly get.

Musically, Those Darlins are a near perfect blend of X and The Carter Family. They even cover the Carter Family’s “Cannonball Blues” on this album. I described them once before as sounding like a female Uncle Tupelo or a slightly unhinged Loretta Lynn. The girls (along with their drummer, Sheriff Lin) have as much fire as Loretta ever did, and their Middle Tennessee roots (they hail from Murfreesboro, TN) lend a certain authenticity to their twang. I don’t know if Loretta ever got drunk and ate an entire chicken, but I like to think that she could have.

Those Darlins: The Whole Damn Thing (Buy Album)

#7 – Middle Cyclone by Neko Case

Neko Case utilized one of my favorite publicity gimmicks of 2009 to promote the release of Middle Cyclone. She made a financial donation to an animal rescue organization called “Best Friends” for every blog that posted the lead single from the album. She garnered a ton of attention for the album (and the single “People Got a Lot of Nerve”), and raised $4,000 for a very worthy cause. Of course, Neko has never needed any gimmicks to get my attention with her music, but I’m glad I was able to help expand her audience a bit with this one.

In what was, at times, a surreal interview with public television personality Tavis Smiley, Neko described this album as being mostly comprised of songs about “love and nature.” Many of the songs here actually do come off as love songs to the natural world. Neko sings of magpies and killer whales… owls and glaciers, and even titles one song “Never Turn You Back on Mother Earth.” The track I’m sharing here is one of those nature tracks as well. In “This Tornado Loves You,” Neko plays the roll of a tornado trying to express itself to a human. Yeah… I don’t really understand it either, but it’s a good song… and a good album.

Neko Case: This Tornado Loves You (Buy Album)

Top 10 Americana Albums of the Decade: #8 – Buddy & Julie Miller by Buddy & Julie Miller

Posted in Buddy and Julie Miller, Top 10 Americana Albums: 2000-2009 on November 18, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I love Steve Earle and Allison Moorer.

I think Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis are great.
Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler of Over the Rhine make me giddy.
You know how I feel about Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson.
For my money, though, Buddy & Julie Miller are the first couple of Americana music.
Buddy is the multi-instrumentalist/producer/singer/songwriter who is the most decorated artist in the history of the Americana Music Awards with a voice that can instantly transport you back to the glory days of country music.
Julie is the master songwriter who will break your heart with the pain and longing she packs into every verse and piece it back together with the warmth of her voice.
Together, the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts. That’s no small feat when you consider the two main parts involved.
This self-titled release from 2001 served as my real introduction to the couple’s sound. I recall being completely enamored by Julie’s voice upon hearing the song “The River’s Gonna Run” on a sampler CD that came with the December 2001 copy of the British music magazine, Uncut (I heard Gillian Welch for the first time on the same disc as well). It wasn’t long before I realized that Buddy Miller was one of the artists featured on the new Kasey Chambers CD that I was just starting to get into at the time (more on that disc later in the list). That was all I needed to push me toward giving this album a shot.
The album opens with a cover of Richard Thompson’s “Keep Your Distance,” a song about the power of lust to consume and destroy. Buddy and Julie bring a certain fire to the track with soulful harmonies on a vocal performance that highlights the longing in the in the words while cursing the restraint that must be exercised. “You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast” studies similar themes as Buddy’s guitars wail over Julie’s words that carry all of the passion with none of the restraint of the previous tune. I heard Julie say once that this song was her attempt to write a song like “Wild Thing”… a rocking, unrestrained, love song. Mission accomplished.
It was songs like those that first pulled me into this album. I loved the juxtaposition of the heavy electric guitars and pounding drums that just scream “Rock & Roll” with the breathy raspy twang of Buddy & Julie’s voices that come straight from days of Nashville past. Songs like their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower” fit that description perfectly. Fiddles cry while cymbals crash in a perfect blend of country, blues, and roots rock that forms a perfect blueprint of Americana.
Buddy & Julie Miller was named “Album of the Year” at the inaugural Americana Music Honors & Awards in 2002. It’s hard to argue with the panel for their choice.
Buddy & Julie Miller: You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast (Buy Album)
Buddy & Julie Miller: Wallflower (Buy Album)

Americana Award Winners & Other Notes

Posted in Americana Music Awards 09, BettySoo, Buddy and Julie Miller, Buddy Miller, Gurf Morlix, Justin Townes Earle, Patty Griffin, Porterdavis on September 18, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

***Well… The results are in from last night’s Americana Honors and Awards Show, and the winners are Buddy Miller, Buddy Miller, Buddy Miller, Buddy Miller, Gurf Morlix, and Justin Townes Earle.

Obviously, Buddy was the big winner on the night. He walked away with wins for “Artist of the Year,” “Duo/Group of the Year” with his wife Julie Miller, “Album of the Year” for Written in Chalk (also with Julie), and “Song of the Year” for his duet with Patty Griffin called “Chalk.”
With his four wins last night, Buddy now has nine Americana Music Awards to his credit. He has two previous wins in the album category for Buddy & Julie Miller in 2002 and Universal United House of Prayer in 2005. He’s also a two-time winner of the instrumentalist award and was honored in the song category for “Worry too Much” in 2005. It’s quite the impressive resume.
The other two award winners, Morlix and Earle, both were presented with their first Americana trophies. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Morlix took home the “Instrumentalist of the Year” award while Earle was honored with the “Best New/Emerging Aritst” trophy.
***Speaking of Gurf Morlix… Thanks to A Truer Sound for introducing me to Asian-American Americana songwriter BettySoo. BettySoo hails from Texas, and her latest album Heat Sin Water Skin features Morlix as a player and producer. You can read about BettySoo… and watch some videos… over at A Truer Sound, or stream and purchase the album here. You can also stream most of her entire catalogue on her website. She’s worth checking out.
***One more Morlix related note… Be on the lookout for my first ever CD giveaway contest sometime next week. I have an autographed copy of the debut studio album from Porterdavis to send somebody’s way. Morlix produced the album, and it sounds great. Look for info on the giveaway (and interview/performance audio from the band) on Monday.
***Finally, a couple of loyal readers of this site were featured recently on CNN, and I think that’s pretty cool.
I was first introduced to Steve and Jill Kaufmann when I was the host of Americana Crossroads at Morehead State Public Radio. They started listening to the show from their home in Lexington, KY and would send in the occasional e-mail when they heard something they really liked. We lost touch when I moved to Knoxville, but reconnected a while back through the blogosphere when I noticed I was receiving some traffic to this site from a blog called Off the Grid and On the Map.
As it turns out… the Kaufmanns had quit their jobs, sold their house, bought a van, and embarked on a long term driving tour of North America… and they were blogging about it. They would listen to WDVX over the internet on their travels and had tracked me down through that. Pretty soon, I was getting e-mails from them in the studio at work… only now the messages were coming from Mexico and California instead of Lexington. I started following their travels on their website, and I guess I wasn’t the only one as Steve and Jill were recently featured on CNN.com.
In honor of Jill & Steve’s Excellent Adventure, here’s a song dedicated to them from the one and only Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash: I’ve Been Everywhere (Buy Album)

Americana Music Awards Nominees ’09: Album of the Year

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo, Americana Music Awards 09, Buddy and Julie Miller, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Justin Townes Earle on September 4, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

So far we’ve covered the nominees for “Best New and Emerging Artist” and “Song of the Year” at this year’s Americana Music Awards & Honors. I gave you my picks and asked you to vote for yours. You’ve voted for all Texas artists so far with The Band of Heathens and The Flatlanders each taking their respective categories. We’ll find out who really wins when the awards get passed out September 17th in Nashville.

This week, it’s time to look at the “Album of the Year” nominees. I’ve already covered two of the nominees in great detail here at the site. I’ll start with those first.
I probably don’t have to tell you that my vote (if I had one) would go to Alejandro Escovedo for his 2008 release Real Animal. I reviewed the album back when it first came out. In fact, it was one of the very first albums I ever wrote about. I also chose it as my favorite album of 2008, and the accolades didn’t stop there. Music critics in Austin named it the best of the year, No Depression give it their top album nod, Stephen King called it one of the year’s best, and Alejandro essentially swept the Austin Music Awards. This is a great rock and roll record with a great deal of introspective song writing. It sounds great now, and I have a feeling it will hold up for quite a while as well.
Alejandro Escovedo: Sister Lost Soul (Buy Album)

Next, we move on to Chalk by Buddy and Julie Miller… an album that I wrote about back in February. As I said then… this isn’t exactly a full collaboration for Buddy and Julie. They only sing together on a few tracks, opting for solo vocals and guest appearances on the other tracks. Patty Griffin, Robert Plant, Larry Campbell, Regina and Ann McCrary, and Emmylou Harris all make appearances on the album. In most cases, the guests take the album to some very lofty places… but I still just love to hear Buddy & Julie Miller singing together. Here’s one where they do just that.

Buddy & Julie Miller: Gasoline & Matches (Buy Album)

Next up is former Drive By Truckers guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Jason Isbell with his new backing band The 400 Unit. Jason’s latest album is a self-titled project and once again reminds me why my favorite Drive By Truckers records are the ones on which he appeared. Although the 400 Unit helps him lay down some tight, southern rock inspired grooves, Jason’s strength has always been his songwriting. I’m not sure why Jason is the only nominee that I haven’t written about before. He certainly deserves the mention.

The album opening “Seven Mile Island” has a father reflecting on his own death even as his child is being born. “Cigarettes & Wine” sees a man destroyed because he can’t let himself be tied down. “Soldiers Get Strange” details the trials of a returning soldier struggling to readjust to civilian life. It’s not a happy album by any stretch, but (to steal a lyric from “Cigarettes and Wine”) it does a great job of detailing snapshots of a, “Life that ain’t grindstone to nose, but pedal to floor.”
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit: Seven Mile Island (Buy Album)
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit: Cigarettes & Wine (Buy Album)
The final nominee is Justin Townes Earle’s latest effort Midnight at the Movies. I know I’ve said this before… but with every new project he releases, Justin takes one more giant step out of the imposing shadows cast upon him by his famous father (Steve Earle) and namesake (Townes Van Zandt). He acknowledges those shadows briefly on the autobiographical “Mama’s Eyes,” but stands proudly in the sun himself with the album opening title track and stays bathed in its rays the whole way through. If he keeps releasing albums like this… he’ll stay there for a while.
Justin Townes Earle: Midnight at the Movies (Buy Album)
I’ve already told you who my vote would go to. I am firmly in the Alejandro Escovedo camp. As for who will win the award, I see this one as being pretty wide open as all four are solid choices. Buddy and Julie are always tough to beat (as Buddy’s crowded awards shelf will attest), and they have won this award before. My wife believes the fix is in for Earle to be the night’s big winner, but I don’t think he takes this one. Isbell’s songs are tremendous, but I don’t know if he has the name recognition to take out two members of Americana royalty and the heir apparent to another regal throne. This one should be interesting.
My vote (If I had one): Real Animal by Alejandro Escovedo
My prediction: Written in Chalk by Buddy & Julie Miller

Americana Music Awards Nominees ’09: Song of the Year

Posted in Americana Music Awards 09, Buddy and Julie Miller, Kasey Chambers, Patty Griffin, Rodney Crowell, Shane Nicholson, The Flatlanders, The Gourds on August 28, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Last week, I previewed the nominees for “Best New & Emerging Artist” at this year’s Americana Awards and Honors and asked you to vote for who you thought should win. You chose The Band of Heathens by an almost two-to-one margin over Sarah Borges & The Broken Singles.

This week, we’re going to dip into another category and ask you to vote on the “Americana Song of the Year.”

We’ll start with “Chalk” by Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin from Buddy and Julie Miller’s 2009 release Written in Chalk. Julie wrote the song, but does not appear on the track… opting instead to let Patty Griffin lend her beautiful voice to provide the soaring harmonies to Buddy’s soulful and grounded baritone. It was the right choice. Lyrically, the song is a classic Julie Miller tune full of heartache, heartbreak, burdens carried, and promises written in chalk that are easily erased. The musical accompaniment is mostly subdued… strummed acoustic guitars, resonant drums, and soft piano flourishes… but the vocal performances of Buddy and Patty make the song an absolute powerhouse.

Buddy Miller & Patty Griffin: Chalk (Buy Album)

The perfect counterpoint to the restrained heartbreak of “Chalk” is the unbridled joy and energy of “Country Love” by The Gourds from their 2009 effort Haymaker. Vocalist Kevin Russell sets the tone for the song by shouting the opening line, “Wake up! We’re going to the country.” For the next 2:45 the listener is taken on a hayride through the backwoods… a place where sweet potatoes are divine, you can actually see the stars away from the city lights, and a little “country lovin'” can make everything alright. Accordions, twangy guitars, and shouts of joy fill the track. If you can’t dance to this one… you may just not dance at all.

The Gourds: Country Love (Buy Album)

We’re brought back to reality a bit by the third nominee, “Homeland Refugee” by The Flatlanders from their 2009 effort Hills and Valleys. On this track, Flatlanders Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock create a moving narrative by invoking imagery from past eras of American hardships such as The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl to illustrate some of the financial hardships being faced by many Americans today. Ely takes lead vocals on the track and tells of a protagonist forced to leave his home on the coast and return to a simpler life in middle America. He returns along the same path his forefathers used during our country’s time of expansion when people looked to the west to find better fortunes. A lyrical nod to Woody Guthrie only drives home the point that our “Pastures of Plenty” aren’t so plentiful anymore.

The Flatlanders: Homeland Refugee (Buy Album)

That brings us to “Rattlin’ Bones,” the title track of the 2008 release by Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson. The husband and wife team of Kasey and Shane take a few cues from the Carter Family on this track that is a true celebration of the roots of country and folk music. The instrumentation is sparse with just guitar, banjo, and drums. Kasey and Shane share the lead vocal in a back-and-forth style and combine to craft haunting harmonies in the chorus. The concept is simple, but the execution is flawless. I don’t care if it comes from Australia… this IS Americana music.

Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson: Rattlin’ Bones (Buy Album)

Our final nominee this year is the title track from Rodney Crowell’s 2008 effort Sex and Gasoline. As you may recall, I was a little underwhelmed by Rodney’s latest effort when it was released… but this track had nothing to do with that. The song is an indictment of a sexist society and a popular culture that bases a woman’s worth solely on her beauty and youth. Or to put it in Rodney’s words, “You ain’t nothin’ but the shape you’re in.” There is something wrong with a society in which a 30-year-old woman is looked upon as an “old hag.” Of course, Rodney Crowell has never been afraid to call a foul when he sees one.

Rodney Crowell: Sex and Gasoline (Buy Album)

As for who should and will win this one I think I’m going to have to go with Buddy and Patty on both counts. Buddy is the most awarded artist in the history of the Americana Music Awards, and he’s leading the house band for the awards show again this year. Patty is also a past winner at the awards and sports what may be the best voice in the industry. The dark horse here may be The Flatlanders. Voters for this award have gone for topical songs in the past, and this one is timely without being transparent.

My vote (if I had one): Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin
My prediction: Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin

Buddy & Julie Miller: Written in Chalk

Posted in Buddy and Julie Miller on February 11, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I’ve been listening to Buddy and Julie Miller’s new album Written in Chalk for a few weeks now, but I tried to hold off on writing about it until we got a little closer to the March 3rd release date. That is until I saw on the Ramblings… blog that New West Records has made the first track from the album, “Ellis County,” available as a free download from their website.

For the album itself… it is a bit different from the self-titled effort they released in 2001. That album was a full collaboration featuring eleven duets between Buddy and Julie with each contributing vocals to every track. When Buddy and Julie sing together, they create a heavenly sound that is uniquely theirs… a sound that can only be created by a couple that has been married and making music together for over twenty years. That’s why you’ll find Buddy on nearly all of Julie’s solo material and vice versa.

That’s also why it’s a bit odd to only find the two singing together on less than half of Written in Chalk’s twelve tracks. The album reads as one part Buddy and Julie Miller, one part Buddy and friends, and one part Julie and friends. That’s not a complaint mind you. When the “and friends” include Robert Plant, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Regina and Ann McCrary… you can excuse Buddy and Julie for wanting to branch out a bit.

In fact, the collaborations with the outsiders comprise some of the absolute high points of the album. Patty Griffin’s vocals are the perfect compliment to Buddy on “Chalk,” a song that still stops me square in my tracks every time I hear it. Griffin also helps out Julie on the piano/guitar ballad “Don’t Say Goodbye” with understated harmonies that add an extra level of depth to the track. Robert Plant provides another highlight by singing a duet with Buddy on Mel Tillis’ “What You Gonna Do, Leroy.”

When Buddy and Julie do get together… watch out. “Gasoline and Matches,” a song about an explosive love affair, is as incendiary as the name might suggest. Buddy provides a slow burning electric groove for “Smooth” that transports you straight to the streets of Memphis. A more tender moment is found on the acoustic “June.”

The song I’m featuring here (and the song featured by New West) is the album opening “Ellis County.” This one was written by Julie (she wrote nine of the album’s twelve songs) and features Larry Campbell on the fiddle. The lyrics focus on nostalgia and a yearning to be taken back to a simpler time. The words are accompanied by a loping country groove that seems lifted from that same bygone era.

Written in Chalk is available March 3rd from New West Records.

Buddy & Julie Miller: Chalk (Buy Album)

Links: Because it’s been a few days

Posted in Buddy and Julie Miller, Patty Griffin, Ryan Adams, Steve Earle on January 19, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I haven’t had a whole lot of time to write this weekend… so here is some other stuff from around the blogs that you might be interested in.

*Ramblings on Music, Texas, Etc… has some more info on the new Buddy & Julie Miller disc that is coming out March 3rd. If you visit, you can see the Electronic Press Kit for the new album and the album cover (which I have posted above).

Ramblings also has some info about the next Patty Griffin album.

*I am Fuel, You are Friends has the scoop on the next Steve Earle project. Earle’s next album will be a collection of Townes Van Zandt covers. Earle already honored his late friend by naming his son (Justin Townes Earle) after him. Now he honors him again by keeping his music alive.

*You can still vote for your favorite albums of 2008 over at No Depression’s new website. I’ve already sent my vote in.

*What’s going on with Ryan Adams anyway? Is he quitting the music biz or just taking a break? This Mornin’ I am Born Again attempts to answer those questions.

Hopefully, he’s just taking some time off to recapture his muse. Here’s one of my favorite Ryan Adams songs from his solo debut Heartbreaker. This is how Ryan sounds when he’s at his best… someplace I don’t think he’s been for a while. Maybe he just needs a break.

Ryan Adams: Come Pick Me Up (Buy Album)