Buddy Miller - Buddy Miller's Majestic Silver Strings
New West Records
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Vinyl, Single Sided, Etched
Packaged in unique vinyl wallet.
Sticker on outside of album reads:
Limited edition (of 500 copies)/Hand numbered/Premium audiophile/180g virgin vinyl/Audio mastered for vinyl
Manufactured and hand assembled in USA
Side 4 is etched with front cover logo.
Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Cattle Call 4:11
No Good Lover 4:58
I Want To Be With You Always 3:11
Barres De La Prison 3:50
Dang Me 5:02
Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie 6:00
That's The Way Love Goes 4:29
Freight Train 2:50
Why I'm Walkin' 5:48
Why Baby Why 3:40
Return To Me 5:06
God's Winged Horse 4:10
Side 4: (Etched with front cover logo)
The Majestic Silver Strings is Buddy's reimagination of classic country songs with unrestrained guitars, atmosphere and attitude. Buddy and the three acclaimed guitarists Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz (together they are The Majestic Silver Strings) together push each song into a new cosmos warped in reverb. Guest vocalists include Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Lee Ann Womack, Chocolate Genius and Julie Miller.
This album is unlike anything Buddy has done before. It is far and away the most ambitious album he has undertaken in his entire career.
But then there's a bunch of folks you wouldn't expect. First, you've got Bill Frisell (one of jazz's pre-eminent guitarists whose musical roots are very broad and very deep), Marc Ribot (another world-class guitarist whose past work has been labeled no wave, free jazz and Cuban among other things - trust me, Marc doesn't fit in a box any more than Bill does), and Greg Leisz (who plays just about anything with strings exceptionally well). [Greg's steel guitar will make your skin crawl it's so good] Together with Buddy, these four men constitute the Majestic Silver Strings, which will play as a group at the Grammy Museum in LA on Thursday, March 10th (only show scheduled that I know of). Add in Chocolate Genius, a floating member group centered on Marc Anthony Thompson, a New York-based singer/songwriter, and you've got a heck of a mix.
The album (the promo copy I have been listening to) states that it is "Buddy's re-imagination of classic country songs, loaded with guitars, atmosphere, and attitude." That's about as apt a one-line description as you're likely to find. That's also why there's a bit of culture shock at first. Most of these are not typical country arrangements; indeed, some are arguably not country at all (the cover of "Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie's" layered guitars are much more jazz and avant-garde, some of it downright dissonant at times - but it works).
As I've listened to this album I've had a lot of reactions and thoughts. There's a dark, brooding melancholy underlying some of the arrangements and singing. Some of the arrangements are reminiscent of Ry Cooder's "Jazz" album with a real turn-of-the-century 1800s/1900s feel to them ("Meds"). Some are lush and deeply layered, some are pretty stripped down and spartan. You can legitimately say that the album is a hodge-podge, but it all works nonetheless and it's cohesive as an album.
The best songs for me (and these may well change in the future) are Buddy and Ann McCrary's take on "No Good Lover," Marc Ribot's "Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie," the upbeat, jazzy instrumental "Freight Train," Buddy and Marc's "Why Baby Why," and the simple, straightforward "God's Wing'ed Horse" by Buddy and Julie that closes the album. That said, there's not a bad song on the album, just some that aren't quite as effective as others.
I'm sure some A&R moon unit at a super-sized label would have tried to talk Buddy out of working with Bill and Marc, and possibly out of making such an album at all. And on my first listening, I might have agreed. Careful, repeated listenings, however, revealed more and more; it lives up to the old adage, more will be revealed. After 8 full, careful listenings (three with the headphones on), all I can do is shake my head and think "Buddy, ain't that ol' boy something." Indeed, he is.
Majestic Silver Strings - Why Baby Why (George Jones Cover)
Made the 10th at Grammy. Fab. The boys were not wanting to talk much that night and I felt a bit sorry for interviewer Bob Santelli ... but not TOO sorry when they started to belt out those beautiful tunes! Diverse and beautiful material.
The Majestic Silver Strings (feat. Marc Anthony Thompson) - Dang Me
How does one take an innocuous little Roger Miller ditty and turn it into a cross between Papa Was a Rolling Stone and Frankie Teardrop? Like this, I guess... Amazing... Song of the year, easily.
Buddy Miller & Leann Womack - Return To Me
I swear, if the day comes when Lee Ann Womack singing ANYTHING doesn't give me chills... I don't know what I'll do. I'd pay to listen to her sing the names out of a phone book. Touch of classic country there.