THROUGH THE LENS: Buddy and Julie Miller’s Album Release Show at City Winery Nashville
Buddy & Julie Miller - City Winery Nashville - Photo by Amos Perrine
“This is the beginning and end of our world tour.”
— Buddy Miller
Julie Miller had not performed in public for 15-plus years before this show — a show that sold out within hours of being announced. Rolling Stone said it was the pair’s first public performance since 2002. If so, I was at that show, New Year’s Eve at New York’s Bottom Line. (Sitting next to me was the professional wrestler Mick Foley, who told me he took a lot of grief from other wrestlers for listening to alt-country, with heavy metal was the norm for the others.)
While there were some luminaries at this show celebrating the release of Breakdown on 20th Ave. South — notably Emmylou Harris — a lot of my Cayamo pals were also there. Three of them, Brenda Rosser, Liz Relin, and Paul Mueller share some photos with us, with Brenda also provided her thoughts on the show and the setlist. Paul did a review for Americana One.
Buddy and Julie Miller
The stage was set as if we were being invited into Buddy and Julie’s living room: Two overstuffed chairs on a carpet with a floor lamp behind and between them. In front of them were music stands, mics, and numerous musical instruments. One could imagine there was a similar setup in the Miller home when Julie recorded her vocals in an upstairs bedroom while Buddy worked the control panel in the studio below.
There was some audience buzz before the performance, a mixture of anticipation and uncertainty. Let’s admit it, this was a Julie Miller show. The uncertainty disappeared as soon as they took the stage to a long standing ovation, one that was filled with love and admiration. There was a lot of joy and laughter on the stage as well. While there has always been a certain fragility in Julie’s voice, there’s also a vivid sense of strength and resolve. The combination of these elements marks a talent that is as formidable as it is embraceable.
They left no doubt that this was going to be a memorable show as they kicked things off with an even more spirited version of the of Breakdown on 20th Ave. South‘s centerpiece, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” followed by four more new songs. They did not let up, doing an additional four crowd-pleasers, including Julie’s “All My Tears,” which Emmylou Harris famously covered. Less well-known is that jazz legend Jimmy Scott also did it. Count me as most fortunate as I have seen all three do the song live, including a 2001 performance where Julie spoke adoringly of Scott.
The banter — what banter there was! When Buddy picked up a very small guitar, Julie intoned, “It looks like you got it at the airport.” On “Feast of the Dead,” on which band member Colin Linden played the hurdy-gurdy. Buddy called it “one of the most terrible sounds in the world.” Julie countered with, “I’ve been a hurdy-gurdy fan since The Pogues opened up for Bob Dylan back in L.A. 30 years ago. I was backstage and I heard this sound. They were in the dressing room with a fiddle and a hurdy-gurdy. Bob Dylan went [in one] direction, but I went that direction.”
However, as great as the music and the banter were, what struck me even more was the love between the two, their obvious affection for one another, and Buddy’s eyes. Whenever he looked at Julie, which was continually, his eyes were full of moon. Part of this was practical — since the album’s songs were Julie’s, he took his cues from her. The other part was pure, unadulterated love. That has always been apparent on their records, but to be witness to it, to see it up close and personal, is something that approaches the sacred. Until the stardust comes apart, indeed.
The Rische Family: Lille Mae, Frank, and Scarlett, Plus Jim Lauderdale
The opening act was a real family affair as fiddler Lillie Mae was joined by brother Frank on guitar and sister Scarlett on mandolin. It was Lillie Mae’s birthday, and her sublime set was highlighted with new songs, including two stunners: “Didn’t I” and “You’ve Got Other Girls for That.” Those are on her new album, Other Girls, due on Aug. 16, my birthday.
Snappily dressed in one of his Dandy & Rose bespoke western shirts, Jim Lauderdale, who seems to be Buddy’s younger brother and is co-host of their radio show, opened with songs from his winning new album, From Another World, that was also released on June 21. Lille Mae and Frank Rische accompanied him.
Brenda Rosser’s View
I have been a fan of Julie Miller’s since 2007, when a friend loaned me a copy of Broken Things, and later, Blue Pony, so I had never seen a live performance. I have seen Buddy many, many times, but it was a pure joy to see these two perform together. With the stage set up much the same as the Buddy & Jim Radio Show recording sessions on Cayamo, a living room experience was created, as if the Millers were opening the door and letting us in.
Julie’s reaction to the enthusiastic welcome was priceless, as was her relaxed demeanor and laughter as the set settled in after a rousing start of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” After performing the first cover of the set, Richard Thompson’s “Keep Your Distance,” Julie broke into giggles at an audience member’s shouted request for the Buddy and Jim’s song, “Hole in My Head.” Julie: “They want to hear ‘Hole in My Head.'” Buddy: “We are limited in our repertoire.” Julie: “Yeah, I just met the band last week.” Instead, they performed “All My Tears,” one of my favorites, and apparently everyone else’s.
The set-ending “Let’s Stick Together” (the Bob Dylan lyrics version) was an inspired choice, one that had Julie insisted on. For the encore, they delivered on the requested “Hole in My Head.” Julie: “Let’s sing that one.” Buddy: “But you don’t know the words.” Julie: “I’ll just follow your lips.” A look from Julie led Buddy to proclaim, “Uh oh, it’s gonna be another 16 years …” Let’s hope not. May the love in room of City Winery be a healing balm for Julie Miller, as her songs are needed in this world.
The show will be broadcasted on the Buddy & Jim SiriusXM radio show. No air date has been given.