Christian Artists to Know: Buddy Miller

buddy-miller-close-up

Buddy Miller
Genre: Country
Styles: Alternative County, Americana. Gospel
Location: Nashville, TN
Label: New West Records
Website: http://www.buddyandjulie.com/
Christian label: no
Category: The Light whats this?

No Depression Magazine , the combination New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone of the Americana/Alt Country scene, published its last issue in June 2008 (it is now a vibrant webzine).  That final issue featured underground Christian music artist Buddy Miller on its cover, declaring Buddy their “Artist of the Decade.”

Emmylou Harris, for who he served as lead guitarist and band leader for 8 years, calls Buddy Miller “one of the best guitar players of all time.”  Steve Earle, another former band mate, pronounces Buddy Miller “the best country singer working today.”

And yet, most of us have not heard of him.  Who is this guy?

Buddy Miller hit the country music scene in the sixties as a young guitar slinger touring the country with acts large and small.  He made his way to Austin in 1975 and became a fixture in the “Outlaw Country” scene led by Willie Nelson. There, Buddy met his soul mate, Julie Miller (now a CCM star in her own right). As Buddy and Julie were building a growing fan base in New York in the early 80′s, Julie gave her life to Christ and disappeared.  Buddy Miller followed his soul mate, discovering Christ and new life.  The couple left the music scene for several years only to emerge in the early 90′s as solo artists.  His first solo album Your Love and Other Lies was not released until 1995. Many don’t know Buddy Miller because his music pays homage to the roots of the greatest country music and does not succumb to the formulas of the country hit machine.

The sound is pure old-school country, mixed with swamp rock and high plains vocals with complex roots instrumentation and song structures from soul, gospel, rock and the best country.  His first four solo albums did not touch much on his faith.  The themes of the early records on Hi-Tone Records mostly dealt with the traditional worldly themes of country music: lost love and broken dreams.  According to Miller, “although my faith is a big part of my life, I just make my records, my country records. Maybe there will be a little something of faith in there, but it’s not what I’m comfortable doing.”

That was until Buddy Miller ripped open his shirt in 2004 to reveal the heart of a devout Christian, steeped in universal-house-of-prayerGod’s love and greatly troubled by the evil all around him.  His fifth solo record Universal House of Prayer is the second best Underground Christian record of the decade and I cannot imagine anyone displacing it in the next two years.

With Universal House of Prayer, he has created a masterpiece where modern Americana meets traditional roots country meets gospel meets soul meets blues in a breathtaking gumbo of Biblical teaching and universal Truth for humans and society alike.

Our overriding theme at One21music is One Hope, Three Chords and The Truth and Universal House of Prayer exemplifies that mantra.  The CD is full of meaty lyrics by Buddy Miller , Bob Dylan, Mark Heard and several others like these from the amazing song “Don’t Wait”:

Temptation will rust
Crawls in with the fog
Eats away at your trust
Mean as a wild pack of dogs
Uses you up throws your life away
Don’t let it win for another day

Don’t wait don’t wait
Don’t wait it’s late
Don’t wait don’t wait
Don’t wait don’t wait don’t wait don’t wait

Now I’m praying for strength
To get one last try
From mercy’s cup to drink
Before it’s time to die
And all the wicked they best
Start to change their ways

Here is the video for Mark Heard‘s “Worry Too Much”  from Universal House of Prayer.

If you like country wrap this around yourself  like an old coat and, if you don’t, buy it anyway and dance to this music.  If you are a believer, take comfort from these lyrics and if you are not, find yourself in his observations on our society today.

Universal House of Prayer is Buddy Miller‘s masterpiece and one of the greatest alt-country and Christian records ever made, but his reputation was made long before 2004.  His Best the Hi-Tone Years was named one of the essential Americana records of all time. His music has been recorded by Emmy Lou Harris, The Dixie Chicks,Steve Earle, Lee Ann Womack, Brooks and Dunn, Suzy Bogguss and Garth Brooks and even jazz singer Jimmy ScottBuddy Miller is also a highly sought after producer, recording albums for Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Vigilantes of Love.

Buddy Miller is one of the most respected writers, producers, arrangers, instrumentalists and singers in Nashville.  More than that he is a devoted believer who openly professes his faith from the stage and who is highly respected in the Nashville community as a man of character.  Forget genre labels and enjoy one of the greatest American musicians recording today.

You can find Buddy Miller’s solo work digitally on Buddy Miller

You find Buddy & Julie Miller’s work together digitally on Buddy & Julie Miller

You can also get his CDs through Amazon: Poison Love(1997 solo), Cruel Moon (1999 solo), Buddy & Julie Miller (2001 with Julie), Midnight and Lonesome (2002 solo), Love Snuck Up (2004 with Julie), Universal United House of Prayer (2004 solo), The Best of the Hightone Years (2008 solo), Written In Chalk(2009 with Julie)

Comments

  1. chuck says:

    Two news items that were not for the post:

    1) Buddy Miller underwent heart surgery on February 20th. The most recent update on their website, from February 23rd, was that Buddy was recovering nicely.

    2)”No Chalk” the latest Buddy and Julie Miller recording will be released Tuesday, March 3rd and has been receiving rave reviews.

  2. Adam says:

    “…Universal House of Prayer is the second best Underground Christian record of the decade…” – I’m intrigued; what’s the best of the decade?

  3. chuck says:

    I think I speak for everyone here at when I say that Brother, Sister by mewithoutyou is the best Underground Christian cd of this decade. Thanks for asking.

  4. Adam says:

    “Brother, Sister” is definitely in my top 5. Not sure what my favorite is (too many to choose from and I have not heard Buddy Miller’s yet), but if I had to choose one right now it would be Doug Burr’s “On Promenade”.

    As far as the decade’s catalog of work, mewithoutyou’s output is rivaled only by Jars of Clay (not really underground, but their lyrics and music continue to astound me).

  5. chuck says:

    I agree with you about mewithoutyou, they are the gold standard of underground Christian music. I was at a Radiohead show last summer and I was imagining mewithoutyou in that setting. It would have been amazing. I don’t know why they do not have a bigger audience.

    I am not a big Jars of Clay fan but after your comment I will go examine their work more closely.

  6. Adam says:

    Start with Jars’ most recent release, Good Monsters. The lyrics of this album perfectly capture the crux of Christianity in the 21st century…the individual struggle to cope with isolation and a world marred by unspeakable social injustice. “Oh My God” is by far the best song of this decade (in my humble opinion). The theme of the album can be summed up by a quote from Edmund Burke found in the liner notes: “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

  7. chuck says:

    Thanks. I will start my Jars of Clay journey this weekend.

Speak Your Mind

*