Review: Buddy & Julie Miller Make a Striking Return on ‘In the Throes’

(New West)
*** 1/2

Videos by American Songwriter

Given the fact that Buddy Miller has loaned his talents to a myriad of impressive artists over the decades, it’s hardly surprising to find such notables as Emmylou Harris, Matt Slocum, Gurf Morlix, Regina McCrary, Larry Campbell, and Teresa Williams repaying their debt here. A collection of slowly stirred rock, roots, and gospel, the songs simmer with deep-rooted emotions and hazy exposition, an indication that the title does indeed ring true. 

Notably, collaborations between this husband and wife duo are relatively rare—their last effort, Breakdown on 20th Ave. South, was released five years ago, and it was a full decade before that that their sophomore set appeared.

In The Throes marks a striking return, a series of songs seemingly drawn from hints of discord and distress. “You’re My Thrill” shares a relatively restrained refrain, but by the time the pair find their way forward with the title track, the energy and engagement return. The propulsive “The Painkillers Ain’t Workin’” and a sprawling “The Last Bridge You Will Cross” bring to mind the punk-like ethos of X’s John Doe and Excene Cervenka.

The oddest offering of all comes in the form of “I Been Around,” which sounds like something the Plastic Ono Band might have left in reserve.

Those expecting a resurgence of the Millers’ Americana output might be comforted by the album’s bracing ballads — the sweet, shimmering “Niccolo,” the softly harmonized sounds of “I Love You” and “The Last Bridge You Will Cross,” and, most notably perhaps, the tattered “Don’t Make Her Cry,” a rare collaboration between Julie Miller, Bob Dylan, and Regina McCrary. Here again, it affirms the fact that the couple is indeed well-situated within current musical realms and possesses top-notch connections to show for it.

That said, In The Throes doesn’t exploit any advantage, coming on instead like an earnest and engaging set of songs that are exceedingly well-tempered and tastefully rendered as well. Clearly then, being In The Throes can be both appealing and affecting.

Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

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