Essentials: The Top 10 Buddy Miller songs

Credit: Jeff Fasano

Buddy Miller; singer, guitar player, band leader, songwriter, producer, radio show host, collaborator extraordinaire… He’s a very busy chap. He is also influential; in addition to his own recorded output and playing shows, Miller has worked with and continues to be in demand to work with such a wide range of other musicians; he turns up in some unexpected places too, just check out the backing vocals on Kasey Chambers’ ‘Runaway Train’ from the album ‘Barricades & Brickwalls’ and also the title track of that same release. Other credits include Musical Director for the TV series ‘Nashville’. Despite all of this, he only came in at #44 in the Americana UK Top 10 Greatest Ever Americana Artists: The Full List.

Miller has toured with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Plant’s Band of Joy, Emmylou Harris and in a long-term project named Three Girls and Their Buddy, with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin. As a producer, Miller has worked with some big names, including Plant’s Band of Joy, Solomon Burke, Richard Thompson, Allison Moorer, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle, The War and Treaty and Carolina Chocolate Drops. Miller sings a lot of songs which have been written by Julie Miller, and Julie has talked about how inspiring it is to write songs knowing that there will be a singer like Buddy Miller to sing them.

I first became aware of Miller on 10th June 1996 when he played in Emmylou Harris’ band at the Barbican in York, touring in support of Harris’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ record; I was impressed by his guitar playing and backing vocals. Miller has spent a lot of time on the road with Harris over the years; he’s been known to make comments to the effect that he finds duetting with Harris on the song ‘Love Hurts’ on a nightly basis to be no chore. This Essentials piece covers songs recorded by Buddy Miller; be that solo, or in collaboration with other artists; so Buddy Miller, Buddy & Julie Miller, Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, etc. Miller is no stranger to receiving awards, for example at the 2009Americana Music Awards, his awards included Artist of the Year, Duo/Group of the Year with wife Julie, Album of the Year for ‘Written in Chalk’ by Buddy & Julie Miller and Song of the Year for the song ‘Chalk’ from that album .

So my take on the top 10 songs recorded by Buddy Miller is as follows; although please bear in mind that due to the quality of Buddy’s output, over a number of years, were I to repeat this exercise, say next month, then there’s a strong possibility that the list would look significantly different (although #1 would probably be the same.)

Number 10:Wide River to Cross’

We start with a song from 2004’s gospel album, ‘Universal United House of Prayer’, on this LP Miller employs the talents of a number of established collaborators, such as Byron House, Brady Blade and Emmylou Harris but also gospel singers Ann and Regina McCrary. Written by Buddy and Julie Miller, the opening lines read like poetry: “There’s a sorrow in the wind, Going down the road I’ve been, I can hear it cry while shadows steal the sun”.


Number 9:Looking for a Heartache Like You’

Written by Jim Lauderdale along with Buddy and Julie Miller; this first appeared on Miller’s 1999 record ‘Cruel Moon’ but also 2012’s Miller and Lauderdale collaborative effort, ‘Buddy and Jim’. It’s the ‘Buddy and Jim‘ version that features here; I find it the preferable version, sounding less country, more rootsy, while the Miller and Lauderdale voices work so well together.
Miller and Lauderdale are long-term friends and collaborators; in addition to writing and performing together they have, for many years hosted a weekly radio show ‘The Buddy & Jim Show’ on Outlaw Country, SiriusXM in the USA.


Number 8:That’s How Strong My Love Is’

From 1997’s “Poison Love”, this is Miller’s cover of O.V. Wright’s 1964 single; written by Roosevelt Jamison, this has been covered by a long list of artists, including The Rolling Stones, Taj Mahal, Percy Sledge, Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Bryan Ferry. Miller’s voice sounds particularly good here and he’s backed by pretty much the musicians from Harris’ ‘Wrecking Ball‘ sessions.


Number 7:Oh Fait Pitié d’Amour’

This cajun tune, which features on ‘Midnight and Lonesome’ from 2002 was again written by Julie Miller; it is so infectious, simply skipping along on the accordion playing of Fats Kaplan.


Number 6:Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go’

This appeared on 1999’s ‘Cruel Moon’. As Miller performed on tour with Robert Plant & The Band of Joy, this song featured in the setlist, as this video demonstrates.


Number 5:Worry Too Much’

This song, written by Mark Heard, appeared on Miller’s 2004 gospel release, ‘United Universal House of Prayer’; Hammond organ and chunky guitar riffs feature prominently, along with the voices of Miller and sisters Ann and Regina McCrary. At the 2005  Americana Music Awards, ‘United Universal House of Prayer’ won Album of the Year, while ‘Worry Too Much’ carried off the prize for Song of the Year.


Number 4:No Good Lover’

This blues song appears on the record ‘Buddy Miller’s Majestic Silver Strings’. The album, recorded over a three-day period and released in 2011, is Miller’s take on a supergroup; guitarists Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, and Greg Leisz, drummer Jay Bellerose and bass player Dennis Crouch all play on the album along with vocalists Ann McCrary (featured on this song), Patty Griffin, Julie Miller, Emmylou Harris, Lee Ann Womack, and Shawn Colvin.


Number 3:A Showman’s Life’

Another song from ‘Midnight and Lonesome’,  composed by Jesse Winchester, this is a poignant account of a touring musician’s life; “They told me all about the pretty girls And the wine and the money and the good times, There’s no mention of all the wear and tear On an old honky tonker’s heart, Well I might have known it But nobody told me about this part“.


Number 2:Ellis County’

Penned by Mrs. Miller, this appears on 2009’s ‘Written in Chalk’, the record is credited to Buddy & Julie Miller, although there are few songs here where both Millers appear. The lyrics are reflective, looking back, to how things were in simpler times; “Take me back when times were hard but we didn’t know it, If we ate, we had to grow it“.


Number 1:Chalk’

Another cut from ‘Written in Chalk’. Miller shares the vocals here with Patty Griffin; it is such a powerful song; “Now all our words are written down in chalk, out in the rain, on the sidewalk, If all our heartaches were in a stack, They’d go all the way up to heaven and back“. The song builds and Miller’s voice sounds immaculate.

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Pete Feldon

It’s hard to get a representative selection from someone as prolific as Buddy Miller. But I think there’s a strong argument for including a song by Buddy and Julie Miller, my vote is for a song from their 2001 album Keep Your Distance’