Reviews > Shows
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale at the Birchmere
Photo by Cindy Dyer, Dyer Design
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale
There’s something about hearing Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale play music and reminisce about the timeless music of icons George Jones, Porter Wagoner and Kitty Wells that makes Blake Shelton — he of the old farts and jackasses comment and his wish-I-was-a-rock-star brand of sound — seem even more vapid than it did prior to his latest posturing, if that’s even possible.
The set played by Miller and Lauderdale and their A-list “Buddy and Jim Band” comprised of Jay Weaver (bass), Marco Giovino (drums) and Fats Kaplin (fiddle, pedal steel), was as pure a dose of the much-lauded East Nashville — or perhaps it’s Austin — sound as you’ll hear outside of the area’s clubs and honky tonks.
“You know, Jim and Buddy just really enjoy getting together for the sheer sake of playing,” said Lauderdale with a laugh as he and Miller joked about their perceived stumbles on this, the first night of the tour. “If you get up and leave during the show, well, we’ll understand.”
Good joke considering the all-ages crowd seemed to grow more rapt with each passing song. Although Miller and Lauderdale may not be household names, both are lauded as musicians’ musicians. Miller most recently produced Richard Thompson’s album Electric. Lauderdale co-wrote the songs on his latest release Carolina Moonrise with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Throw in work with and writing for everyone from Emmylou Harris, to Robert Plant, George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard and you know there’s plenty of name-dropping the two could do. Many performers would. Not these guys. The duo and their audience were more than content to let the music shine in seemingly stark arrangements.
The set list was filled with both classic and new songs written for the duo’s just-released album aptly titled Buddy and Jim.
“The funny thing was that after all these years talking about the possibility of doing an album together, we didn’t have much time to overthink it,” said Lauderdale prior to the performance. “We chose some covers that we both really liked and then a couple of my older songs, and one Buddy [and his wife Julie Miller] and I had written and then we wrote a couple together and then I wrote another new one and then Julie wrote one for the project and so, it just all came together. I really liked it that way. It didn’t drag on.”
Recorded at Miller’s home studio, the duo recorded the songs in about three days, mixed then in two and then geared up for the tour.
Yes, that’s how it’s done by the pros, folks. And the Birchmere show underscored how comfortable both men are with their artistry.
Moving from their originals including “I Lost My Job” to “That’s Not Even Why I Love you,” then onto Miller’s solo performances that included “All My Tears,” written by Julie Miller to Lauderdale’s turn at his song “I Love You More,” and then onto collaborations including on George Jones’ classic “The Race is On,” was a master class in the beauty of roots music.
Adding to the poignancy of the night was Miller’s reminiscence that four years ago to the day he had suffered a heart attack on a Baltimore stage while playing with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin during the “Three Girls and Their Buddy” tour. Although Miller felt the attack come on, he talked about how he finished the show before being admitted to the hospital for emergency triple by-pass surgery. Before launching into a solo rendition of the “Wide River To Cross,” the song he was singing when the attack hit, he made some jokes about himself and his music.
Although the audience chuckles, it was clear that the thought of losing either Miller or Lauderdale is no joke to true music fans.
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