Buddy Miller has a lot of friends. As the go-to guitarist for everyone from Emmylou Harris to Robert Plant, he’s got plenty of credit in the buddy bank and he draws down a chunk of it on the 11 tracks of this album. Miller is involved in an annual musical cruise known as Cayamo during which he and his friends entertain the lucky passengers. Over the years it worked out so well that Buddy began to tape the results and these songs come from the 2014 and ’15 editions of Cayamo.
The world needs Buddy Miller as surely as we need water and sunshine and so it’s a great relief that 2016 begins with a new release from one of the greatest living voices in American music. Joined by a cast that includes Lucinda Williams, Shawn Colvin, Nikki Lane and Richard Thompson, Miller runs down tunes written by Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, John Prine and Kris Kristofferson among others. These are the fruits of sessions conducted over the last few years as the players sailed the seas on the roots cruise Cayamo.
Talk about nice work if you can get it! Early each year, the annual Cayamo Festival Cruise takes a couple thousand music fans on an ocean cruise through the Caribbean Islands, with a stellar lineup of singer/songwriters and roots music artists on board to perform for the passengers and mingle with their fans. Buddy Miller has been a frequent performer at the festival, and with a number of like-minded musicians out to sea for a week, he often found himself swapping tunes with his fellow performers. In 2012, Miller brought a portable recording rig with him so he and his friend Jim Lauderdale could record some of these jam sessions for their satellite radio show, The Buddy & Jim Radio Hour.
Cayamo is an annual Caribbean cruise where passengers can watch the cream of Americana perform on board. Curated by musical director Buddy Miller, this collection of highlights from 2014/15 suggests a riotously good time is had by artists and audience alike. Country tradition prevails for newcomers and old timers alike. Kacey Musgraves tears up Buck Owens’s Love’s Gonna Live Here from 1963, Richard Thompson drifts mournfully through Hank Williams’s Wedding Bells from ’49 and Kris Kristofferson revisits his own Sunday Morning Coming Down from ’70, making that infamous breakfast beer sound like a recent event.
Listening to this CD is like eavesdropping on an all-star picking party. Recorded at the most recent Cayamo music cruises, the disc captures the multi-talented Buddy Miller and his special guests hanging out and playing a set of great old (or semi-old) country tunes. Miller recreates some classic Nashville duets by teaming up with Lee Ann Womack on “After The Fire Is Gone,” Nikki Lane on “Just Someone I Used To Know” and Elizabeth Cook on “If Teardrops Were Pennies” although their renditions shed some of the originals’ Countrypolitan gloss.
You can just picture modern country radio programmers scrambling to avoid playing Buddy Miller. Thankfully, the gifted guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer doesn’t care, and goes right on championing traditional sounds. When he’s not playing behind respected Nashville outcasts, Miller anchors the band for an annual cruise from Miami to St.