Americana musicians Buddy Miller – known for his first-rate guitar playing and work as a producer for, among others, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Robert Plant – and seminal country-rock singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale have been friends for more than three decades. Though their roots-rock is associated with Nashville and points south and west, they actually met in New York City, where a thriving alt-country scene briefly flared up and then played itself out in the early 1980s.
Miller and Lauderdale have played together on and off ever since. For a time, they even lived together. (Back in Nashville, Lauderdale rented an upstairs room from Miller “until he found a possum under the bed, and I asked for a pet deposit, and then that was the end of our friendship for a short time,” Miller joked in a recent interview in Rolling Stone.)
Though “alt.country’s dream team,” as RS dubbed them, often found themselves on stage or in the studio together, backing each others’ albums or those of other musicians, they never could string enough days together to make a record for just the two of them. The problem was timing, Miller told RS. “Schedules didn’t align. We talked about doing a record together for 17 years. We almost made it 12 or 13 years ago. Then we got this radio show on Sirius XM [The Buddy and Jim Show] that we do together, which has been a blast. I’ve got a bunch of studio junk in my house, and we have people come over and do a two-hour show each week…We thought if we have a radio show, this might not be a bad time to do our record, if we have three days in common. We had three days.”
And that is what it took to make Buddy and Jim. It’s a true collaboration, an album of duets. For most of the record, the musicians sing in two-part harmony. And, mostly, the subject matter is women. The album’s opener, I Lost the Job of Loving You, a new song penned by Lauderdale and Miller, sets the tone. It’s about a guy who gets laid off, as it were, from getting laid.
It’s not always fun and games
You ride the wave
And people change
I guess you did
And I did too
I lost the job of loving you.
Like so many good country songs, it starts out archly, and gets sadder as it goes. By the end, it’s heartbreak time:
I got the time to second guess
I get by on less and less
So many days
To think it through
I lost the job of loving you.
One of the album’s highlights, “It Hurts Me,” was written by a woman, the excellent singer-songwriter Julie Miller (who also happens to be Buddy Miller’s spouse). Miller and Lauderdale also cover vintage tunes from Flatt & Scruggs (The Train That Carried My Girl From Town, and That’s Not Even Why I Love You) and Joe Tex (I Want To Do Everything For You). Their voices blend beautifully, and the guitar work, as you would expect, is stellar. Though the two longtime pros are touring in support of their album, they both have solo projects stacked up too, so don’t look for them on stage again any time soon. Miller is busy composing and producing music for the TV series Nashville and is working on a project with ace producer T. Bone Burnett, and Lauderdale has three albums in the works. Post-Telluride, the one place you’re guaranteed to hear these two is kicking it up on their radio show. “That’s what the Buddy and Jim show is all about,” Lauderdale recently told an interviewer. “We want to have fun and play stuff we like.”
On Sunday afternoon, they’ll do that here.