Buddy and Julie Miller | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Buddy and Julie Miller 

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BUDDY AND JULIE MILLER

Country music has had its fair share of husband-and-wife teams over the years--Hank and Audrey, George and Tammy, Merle and Bonnie, and Waylon and Jessi, to name a few--but it's hard to think of one whose talents are as balanced as Buddy and Julie Miller's. The vast range of their singing and songwriting, both solo and as a duo, makes them a country equivalent of Richard and Linda Thompson, minus the suffocating discord. Buddy Miller is perhaps best known as lead guitarist in Emmylou Harris's band Spyboy, but his stunning solo records--1995's Your Love and Other Lies and the new Poison Love (both on HighTone)--prove that he deserves more recognition for his own work. Most of the new record's songs, written with Julie, deliver honky-tonk swagger without reaching toward the past. "Lonesome for You" and "Love Snuck Up" both bristle with rough-hewn energy and good-time twang, and Buddy's straightforward vocals, adventurous guitar playing, and lean arrangements rescue them from alt-country predictability or revivalist muck. On the anomalous political piece "100 Million Bombs," a heartfelt plea for banning land mines, he easily shifts to smoldering folk rock, a style he shares with Julie Miller's recent solo debut, Blue Pony (HighTone). Julie's high-pitched warble suggests Victoria Williams, but her breathy phrasing, warm melodies, and hard-rocking instrumental support provide a terrific balance. Her country twang overlaps with her husband's music, as in the pretty waltz "Take Me Back," and she tempers her delicate songs with deftly deployed arrangements. The couple's performance at South by Southwest earlier this year was the most memorable gig I caught, combining the music of each into a sublime whole. Thursday, October 9, 7:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Buddy Miller photo by Michael Wilson; Julie Miller photo uncredited.

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