Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale
Buddy & Jim
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Are there two more omnipresent Americana ambassadors than Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale? Their credits range from Robert Plant to Elvis Costello; Ralph Stanley to Solomon Burke – a list long enough to fill the Nashville phonebook. While they have worked together before (including many Americana Music Award shows), this is the first time that these two old pals have done an album together. Considering their long history, it’s not surprising that this collaboration has a natural, easy charm to it.
Something like what Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe used to do during their Rockpile era (only with more natural-born twang), Miller and Lauderdale draw upon a variety of American sounds – country, rock, bluegrass, soul, jazz, blues and rockabilly – to create a casual but well-crafted musical mosaic with the support of such ace players as Stuart Duncan (fiddle and mandolin) and Russ Pahl (steel guitar and banjo). The three song sequence where they go from the zippy, twangy traditional “The Train That Carried My Gal From Town” to the lovelorn ballad “That’s Not Even Why I Love You” and then switching gears again by infused a rich bayou beat to the old Johnny & Jack novelty nugget “South In New Orleans,” wonderfully represents the graceful ease these players exhibit.
As this trio of tunes also suggests, the disc’s song list include new songs from Lauderdale and the Millers (Buddy and Julie) along with older original material and a couple cover tunes too. “It Hurts Me,” a new number, stands out as classic Miller (in this case Julie Miller) with its simple yet smartly written depiction of heartache that burns deeply. Miller and Lauderdale deftly reclaim two vintage originals that were hits for others – “Forever And A Day” and “Looking For A Heartache Like You.” – and they wrap up this 35-minute outing by doing some front porch harmonizing on the old Joe Tex soul hit “I Want To Do Everything For You” and injecting some high octane rockabilly swing to Jimmy McCracklin’s fun ‘50s dance number “The Wobble.”
Because root music traditions form the foundation of both of these men’s music, this rather eclectic set holds together remarkably well. Helping to keep things cohesive is Miller’s versatile guitar work, which adds quicksilver sparks throughout the disc. His interplay with Duncan’s fiddle and Pahl’s steel guitar on Lauderdale’s “Vampire Girl” exemplifies his skillful but never flashy fretwork. While it might not be breaking any new ground, Buddy & Jim is hard to top when it comes to supremely enjoyable Americana music.