Midnight and Lonesomeby Buddy Miller
Do not despair over the title of Buddy Miller's latest homegrown (as in recorded in his home) effort: Midnight and Lonesome spices its evocative, countrified tales of broken hearts and disillusioned characters with twangy roots rock and Cajun and R&B flavors to create a tasty musical gumbo. With his wife, Julie, contributing songs and background vocals (alongside Emmylou Harris and Lee Ann Womack), Miller opts to keep it simple. The music is advanced by small combos -- sometimes only two musicians -- and even the raucous outings here have a spare, bare-bones ambiance, emphasizing the well-turned lyrics and heightening the impact of Miller's own reedy, unaffected vocals. Typical of anything that comes from the Millers' pens these days, the original songs command attention and demand repeat listenings, whether it's their collaboration "Wild Card," a Hank Williamsstyle honky-tonkin' tale of a rambler blindsided by love, or Julie's stark, riveting acoustic ballad for guitar and fiddle, "Quecreek," which offers a vivid recreation of the desperate hours of the trapped miners in Pennsylvania. Notable non-Miller songs include a rocking take on the Everly Brothers' "The Price of Love," defined by its searing electric guitar lines and the Millers' mountain-style harmonies, and a somber acoustic shuffle treatment of Jesse Winchester's "A Showman's Life," bittersweet testimony relating the downside of the troubadour's calling, with Emmylou adding a plaintive seconding of that emotion. And not least of all, Miller slips in a sly, seductive reading of Percy Mayfield's classic R&B chart-topper from 1950, "Please Send Me Someone to Love," which decried the tyranny of racial prejudice at the dawn of the modern civil rights movement. To torture the food metaphor, there's much to chew on here, and it's all strictly gourmet fare.
- Release Date:
- Hightone Records
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Miller's fourth solo album for Hightone features the same canny mix of originals and covers as his previous three, along with the harmonies and songwriting of his wife, Julie. But as fine as their new songs are, the tracks that really give away the duo's roots are the covers. This time out, the Miller's cover The Everly Brothers, Percy Mayfield and Jesse Winchester. The effortlessness with which the Millers' combine country, folk, blues and rock is as impressive as ever. ¶ The Millers recast The Everlys' "The Price of Love" with swampy reverb-growling guitar and husband and wife harmonies more pointed than the originals. Percy Mayfield's 1950 R&B classic, "Please Send Me Someone to Love" is a perfect match for Miller's soulful delivery and a beautifully balanced organ and acoustic-guitar arrangement. Similarly, Miller draws deeply on the emotional of Jesse Winchester's pained first-person examination of life on the road, "A Showman's Life." The latter, an older album cut, shows off not only Buddy Miller's ability to cover a song, but his golden ears for picking material. ¶ The eight new songs, written mostly by Buddy & Julie (or Julie solo), range from twangy details of love's reforming effects ("Wild Card"), to devastating, clinging memories of love lost ("I Can't Get Over You," featuring a duet vocal from Lee Ann Womack). "Midnight and Lonesome" distills the Millers' mountain influences, while the same fiddle-driven sound finds happier times on "Little Bitty Kiss." Fats Kaplin's accordion creates the Cajun-style on "Oh Fait Pitie D'amour." ¶ While the breadth of musical ground the Millers cover follows a map similar to their previous outings, the result retains the same high level of vitality and freshness. Their's is a rich strike, capped in this chapter by Julie Miller's of-the-moment ode to the rescued miners of "Quecreek." It's difficult to pick any one of the Millers' albums as "best," but this one is certainly representative of their unique artistry, and another fine chapter in their songbook. ¶ 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings.