Album Review

Buddy Miller - Midnight And Lonesome

Buddy Miller - Midnight And Lonesome

For all the kudos and award nominations that the Buddy & Julie Miller album of 2001 has notched to date, Mr. Miller remains, curiously, a restless artist. So much so that on his fourth solo record, he genre-skips with enough perverse glee as to suggest he'd rather torch his rep as an alt-country statesman than exploit it. One minute there's straight-up Hank Williams-styled honky-tonker ("Wild Card", featuring Dylan sideman Larry Campbell on fiddle and steel guitar); the next, a quirkily lo-fi, '50s R&B-cum-western-swing ditty ("When It Comes To You"; co-written with wife Julie and Jim Lauderdale, it includes bizarre sampling courtesy '70s Mattel toy the Optigan -- hardly Nashville's instrument of choice); the next, a Cajun-flavored hoedown (Julie's "Oh Fait Pitie D'Amour"); and the next, a silky cover of Percy Mayfield's old soul nugget "Please Send Me Someone To Love". Amid such eclecticism, though, a coursing raw emotion gives the album broad-based appeal. It comes through on even the most polished numbers, such as the Mayfield tune, which is served up so convincingly that you'd think Miller was some recently rediscovered icon. Midnight And Lonesome, in fact, is bookended by a pair of the most nakedly emotional tunes Miller has ever recorded. The opening track, "The Price Of Love", a semi-obscure Everly Brothers composition, features filthy guitar twang and sensual, temptress harmonies from Julie that bind eroticism to lamentation with such force as to make your teeth rattle even as your loins ache. And the closing "Quecreek", drafted by Julie about the rescue of the Pennsylvania miners in July and tellingly invoking Biblical flood imagery, is a country-gospel number about the power of faith. When Buddy gets to the lines, "The miners were buried three nights and three days/But like Jesus Sunday morning all nine men were raised", the tune is breathtaking in all its haunting, poignant resonance.