It is always great to see a new Buddy Miller record out, and though I had more than a couple misgivings about a couple of songs on The Majestic Silver Strings on first listen. But generally, Miller on electric, acoustic guitar and mandoguitar accompanied by Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot on acoustic and electric guitar with Greg Leisz (pedal steel) slot together, perfectly (and on many occasion truly majestic) —especially since you have the great Dennis Crouch (upright bass) and Jay Bellerose on drums; what an incredible rhythm section. My reservations lessened considerably after two or three listens. Although I was taken aback and still struggle with the performances from Lee Ann Womack (‘Meds’) and guest vocalist Marc Anthony Thompson’s restructured version of Roger Miller’s ‘Dang Me’. Other than that Miller and his friends are brilliant.
I honestly feel this is going to become and remain one of the biggest if not the one recording Miller is going to be best known and remembered for. Up there with the record ‘Your Love And Other Lies’ (Hightone) that started his amazing run in 1995. A run that has seen him through an impressive set of albums plus two with his wife, Julie Miller and he has produced and worked with Emmylou Harris, played in her band (and Steve Earle’s too), Robert Plant’s Band Of Joy and produced the album they made and Patty Griffin’s last album too. Miller is undoubtedly a man of many talents.
How the record was made and what inspired tracks is explained on the accompanying DVD. Some as Miller notes came about by chance. Emmylou as ever lets no one down. Her sensitive and compelling version of the Stonewall Jackson hit ‘Why I’m Walkin’ is enough to take your breath away. So good is the piece I immediately replayed the song as I did with ‘Barres de la Prison’; what fantastic playing and with Ribot showing off his talent as a bilingual vocalist the song soaks into one’s senses in unerring fashion. His work with Ann McCrary is fantastic as the couple not for the first time complimenting one another like they were siblings, and don't Marc, Bill and Buddy make those guitars of theirs talk.
Although George Jones’ ‘Why Baby Why’ never fails to stir my juices I think I have now heard it by enough people to last me a lifetime. Great though Miller sounds Womack’s fantastic singing of ‘Return To Me’ stikes a more impressive chord. Likewise, his duets with Patty Griffin on the Lefty Frizzell favourite ‘I Want To Be With You Always’ (I love the pedal steel and baritone guitar work of Buddy) and long-time friend and colleague, Shawn Colvin on another Frizzell classic ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ are wonderful and how about the boys joyous working of the Elizabeth Cotton perennial ‘Freight Train’. What a treat it would be to sample this recording and all the players live on stage.
To close the players really turn it on for the Buddy and Julie duet, ‘God’s Wing’ed Horse’ —written by Julie and Bill this is one to savour (and play) again an again. Heavenly.
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