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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Buddy Miller: The Majestic Silver Strings

I don't review too many country albums, but then again there aren't many country albums that feature jazz guitarists Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell.  There also aren't many country artists as irresistible and stunning as Buddy Miller.

The Majestic Silver Strings (reviewed on PopMatters HERE) is a collection that allows Miller to transform a heap of classic country songs with the help of a veritable guitar army.  In addition of Frisell and Ribot, who both sound utterly like themselves here, Miller has session whiz Greg Leisz in the band as well.  And, amazingly, these four guitars (as Miller himself is a brilliant player) never get in each other's way.

In addition to the musicianship here, Miller has enlisted a stunning line-up of vocalists.  Shawn Colvin sounds clear and pure on Lefty Frizzell's  "Thats' the Way Love Goes," and Patty Griffin duets with Miller nicely on "I Want to Be with You Always."  Julie Miller (wife and frequent partner) sounds fine on "God's Wing'd Horse."  Even Ribot gets to singing, solo on two songs and in duet with the leader on "Why Baby Why."  Perhaps the best tune on the album is a feature for Chocolate Genius (Marc Anthony Thompson) on the grooving "Dang Me."

As always with Buddy Miller, the conventions of country fall away.  His work sounds like folk and rock and classic pop all at once, yet it does so without seeming generic or pretentiously "alt."  This album, while obviously not as focused as some of Miller's best discs, remains a study in hip attitude and eclectic taste.  That's Buddy Miller.

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