Music

Buddy Miller: The Best of the Hightone Years

Buddy Miller live at the 2008 Americana Music Festival [Photo: Sarah Zupko]

A rather useful best-of for an artist who needs more exposure.


Buddy Miller

The Best of the Hightone Years

Label: Hightone
US Release Date: 2008-10-28
UK Release Date: 2008-10-27
Amazon
iTunes

It's certainly not accurate to call Buddy Miller an unknown artist. Sure, the mainstream public might greet his name with a resounding "Who?" (even though they've certainly heard some of his songs under the banners of LeeAnn Womack, Brooks & Dunn, or the Dixie Chicks). But any fan of Americana knows him as the outstanding, tasteful guitarist on records by folks like Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and Emmylou Harris. And then there's his solo work, six albums and counting of stinging guitar, lonesome vocals, and songwriting that manages to blend craftsmanlike precision with raw emotion.

His first five releases are the focus of The Best of the Hightone Years (Miller released his most recent disc, 2004's Universal House of Prayer, on New West). Any Miller disc is a fine starting point all on its own -- he's never really made a bad one -- but as compilations go, The Best of the Hightone Years does a pretty fine job. It doesn't hurt that Miller's never swung to and fro in terms of style, so his earliest cuts from 1995's Your Love and Other Lies sounds like they were always meant to sit beside songs from 2002's Midnight and Lonesome. This is a good thing, no doubt, since the collection presents everything in non-chronological fashion.

There are some fine songs here. "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger" comes in on brooding, accusing guitar. Emmylou Harris sits in to supply vocals on "Cruel Moon" and "Don't Tell Me", while Jim Lauderdale helps out on "Don't Listen to the Wind". "Somewhere Trouble Don't Go" is just a barnburner, with Miller and his wife Julie practically howling at the moon while runaway percussion dominates.

In fact, one of the things that elevates this collection is the inclusion of four songs from the pair's collaboration, 2001's Grammy-nominated Buddy & Julie Miller. On the one hand, you could argue that most of the couple's solo discs have been Buddy & Julie Miller affairs, since Buddy acted as a bit of a one-man band on Julie's last two solo efforts, and Julie has often returned the favor by donating vocals to Buddy's records. But the Buddy and Julie Miller disc presented them both on equal footing and in full twangy flight, including fine covers of Utah Phillips's "Rock Salt and Nails" and Richard Thompson's "Keep Your Distance" (both included here). Plus, it's been nearly ten years since Julie Miller released a record of her own, so it's always nice to hear her singing.

With Miller's move to New West, The Best of the Hightone Years may very well be one of those time-honored contractual obligation releases, but it doesn't feel that way. For one thing, the material's uniformly strong, and it's a fun listen. For another, there probably needed to be a best-of from this artist who's all over the country/Americana landscape, but who might not get the attention he deserves.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.