The name might sound familiar: Buddy Miller — musician, songwriter and a “go-to sideman.” Over the past few years, though, he’s been more well-known as a producer, working on over 30 albums for a variety of artists, and most recently being selected as executive music producer for ABC’s hit show, “Nashville.” It’s his own music, however, that doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves.
Although it might seem weird to talk about an album that’s nearly 15 years old, Miller’s “Cruel Moon” is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard, and it took me years to find it. Like most of the records that Miller makes, it was recorded in his house, and that’s one of the things that makes it so good.
The record opens strong with “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger.” The song, written by Miller and his wife, Julie, hits the listener with a mix of traditional, dark country lyrics and heavy guitars and drums.
Guests on this album include long-time friend, Jim Lauderdale, Tammy Rogers, Emmylou Harri, and Steve Earle, who sings a great duet with Miller on “Love Match,” a Paul Kennerley song.
Though “Love Match” sounds more like a Steve Earle song, Miller makes it his own, and the performance is highly enjoyable.
Arguably one of the best covers Miller has recorded, “I’m Gonna Be Strong,” is an honest breakup song, and the performance on this record holds nothing back. The raw emotion in Miller’s vocals drives the song.
Jim Lauderdale helps out with some of the writing on this record, with songs such as “Sometimes I Cry” and “Looking For A Heartache Like You,” which also made an appearance on Miller and Lauderdale’s recent duet album.
“Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go,” written by Julie, who also provides backing vocals, captures what I like to call “The Buddy Miller Sound.” It’s unmistakable. The guitar tone and the rhythm have become Miller’s signature sound. In my opinion, this song is what americana music is all about.
“In Memory Of My Heart” captures Miller’s trademark recording technique. It’s about capturing the performance, rather than building a recording. The recording sounds like it was done using only one mic, which gives it that raw feel. The lyrics and melody will please the traditional country fan.
“It’s Been A Change,” written by the late, great Roebuck “Pops” Staples, is a great duet between Buddy and Julie, ending the record. The song ends with a random recording of Julie singing in the house, talking to one of the couple’s pets
“Cruel Moon” is sure to please any fan of alternative country or americana music. While Miller hasn’t released a solo album since 2004’s “Universal United House of Prayer,” most of his catalogue has been re-released by different record labels, including the Shout! Factory group. While Miller’s website, www.buddymiller.com, does not offer any of these releases, they can be found online.