Review of Buddy Miller’s Majestic Silver Strings
I was excited awhile back to read on No Depression that Buddy Miller was making an album with the great jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. Majestic Silver Springs, released this month, also features guitarists Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz and vocals by a number of artists, including Patty Griffin, Julie Miller, Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris, Lee Ann Womack, and Ann McCrary.
Majestic Silver Strings differs from Buddy Miller’s other albums by adding a large number of guests and a more atmospheric sound created by the excellent guitarists, but it is still great music. While some versions of the songs stay close to their country roots, other versions stray further from traditional country, such as the outstanding reworking of Roger Miller’s “Dang Me” by Chocolate Genius that gives the song new force and power over its humorous roots. The album is full of excellent music, no matter how you label it. But you will not hear this album on most commercial music radio stations, which generally ignore the great work done by both Miller and his wife, Julie Miller.
Majestic Silver Strings features covers of a number of classic country songs — such as “Cattle Call” — as well as some originals. My favorite tracks on the album include Shawn Colvin singing “That’s the Way Love Goes” and Lee Ann Womack singing “Return to Me,” neither of which would sound out of place on the Grand Ole Opry stage or in a smoky jazz nightclub.
Because of the number of guest artists, as a complete CD, Majestic Silver Strings sounds more like a tribute album than a one-artist album. So like most tribute albums, in this tribute-to-music-that-Buddy-Miller-likes, there are a variety of sounds from song-to-song. Sometimes such variety works for albums and often it does not. But here the excellent musicians throughout make this album more cohesive than many other multi-artist albums.
If you do not mind variety and a little jazz atmosphere mixed in with your music, you will most likely love Majestic Silver Strings. Also, you will probably like it if you are a fan of Miller and the other artists on the album. If you are looking for something that sticks closer to great traditional country sounds consistently throughout an album, you might instead want to play one of Buddy Miller’s other albums, like the excellent Cruel Moon. You cannot go wrong either way.
Another version of this review appeared on the Chimesfreedom blog: