Monday, April 20, 2009

Buddy and Julie Miller - Written In Chalk

While Buddy Miller and his wife Julie have a host of solo releases between them, this is only their second formal duet release. If you know anything about either party, you won't be surprised to find that Written In Chalk is pretty wonderful. Julie suffers from fibromyalgia and chronic depression, so material is not exactly pouring out for her, but she's wonderful here, penning nine of the twelve tunes. Buddy, by contrast, is seemingly everywhere, touring with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, and serving as lead guitarist on the ridiculously successful Robert Plant/Alison Kraus tour. Most recently, he's been out with Emmylou, Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin on the Three Girls And Their Buddy Tour.

Still, even after a surprise triple-bypass while on tour in Baltimore, Buddy has found time to produce a good number of high profile records at their home studio, including Solomon Burke's Nashville and Written In Chalk. The studio isn't much more than a living room and a ProTools rig, but damn if some of the best real country music you'll ever hear comes from it. There are a dozen songs on Written In Chalk, the lion's share of which are written by Julie and absolutely wonderful, even if she's not singing on them. Julie and Buddy have been married since 1981 and bring a wonderful Conway and Loretta kind of harmony to everything they touch, whether it be swampy fare like Gasoline and Matches or more poignant fare like Everytime We Say Goodbye. Their vocal combination makes for an absolutely classic sound, but Julie demurs periodically to give up the vocal role to Patty Griffin, Emmylou or Regina McCrary. Each does her more than proud, with Griffin proving especially wonderful on Don't Say Goodbye. The Robert Plant cameo on the Mel Tillis chestnut What You Gonna Do, Leroy is somewhat unremarkable, but it's growing on me and little niggles on my part aside, Written In Chalk is undoubtably the best record out of Nashville yet this year. Since good (not to be confused with large selling) records come damn few and far between, I can't see much better coming from Nash Vegas anytime soon, so why not buy go with the known quantity and snag yourself a couple copies of Written In Chalk from New West here. Keeps tabs on Buddy and Julie here. Maybe if we're lucky we'll see some live dates.


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