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Buddy Miller

Universal United House of Prayer – 2004 (New West)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Buddy Miller

Buddy Miller has always been on the outskirts of mainstream country music, mixing influences from gospel to blues to bluegrass and hanging out with folks like Jim Lauderdale and Emmylou Harris. He continues to march to the beat of a different drummer on this, his first true gospel album.

He sets the record up with a dark electric rocker, "Worry Too Much," in which he frets about the problems with the world. In the next song, a bright acoustic reading of the Louvin Brothers' "There's a Higher Power," he seems to find the answer to his worries.

Miller rues America's self-righteousness, whether manifested in the Cold War of Dylan's day or in the current war for democracy in Iraq, in a nine-minute marathon rendition of Bob Dylan's grand anti-war song, "With God on Our Side." The prettiest song here is the spare, acoustic "Fire and Water," co-written with Miller's wife Julie. It's a tale of a lost man who travels metaphorically through fire and water to find salvation. "Like a storm carries a seed away upon the wind/When it falls to the ground, it brings life back again."

From beginning to end and in every way - from Miller's intelligent songwriting to his masterful weaving of his central theme throughout an entire album - this is a wonderful record.