The year was 1998. I was new to Nashville, and so was the concept of “Americana” music, though our arrivals were, as far as I can tell, coincidental. I’d been following and loving rootsy country and folk for more than a decade, but the term Americana had just started floating around, and I was a fan and journalist trying to figure out what this amounted to for an arts column in the Wall Street Journal. So I cold-called Grant Alden, one of the founders and editors of No Depression magazine. He was gracious and generous with his thoughts (as was everyone else I called on that story) and when I asked him to name me some artists who were indisputably core “Americana,” among the first words out of his mouth were “Buddy” and “Miller”.
Of course if you’re reading this and follow our musical universe, you know what a big deal that day was for me. Buddy had released two albums by that point, and as soon as I got hold of them I realized what Alden was getting at. The songs were simply stunning in their simplicity and substance, and the feel was contemporary country music with a deep bow to classic soul. The textures were scintillating and Buddy’s voice a raspy, embracing wonder. Since then, I’ve been a Buddy Miller completist, and you may be too.
I’m tempted to say that for Americana fans our own Jim Lauderdale needs no introduction. But I certainly hope that even if you’ve seen him open and host our shows, that you’ve delved into his remarkable career and catalog. I was tipped off right when his Planet of Love debut album came out in 1991, and I was transfixed by songs like “King Of Broken Hearts” and “What You Don’t Know.” Over the years, Jim became a prolific yet consistent recording artist and a regular supplier of great songs to country radio stars. When it came time to find a host for the Americana Music Honors & Awards show, Jim’s witty and enthusiastic personality made him a natural. And of course, there was a job opening at a neophyte roots radio show at the Loveless, and through some miracle of good timing and opportunity, Jim became the Music City Roots musical host and ambassador. We love us some Lauderdale.
Jim and Buddy became friends in New York City in the 1980s, when both were up and coming artists and songwriters. Oft have I wished I could have seen them in those days honing their craft and backing each other up. Jim moved to Nashville first and talked Buddy and his wife Julie into taking the Music City plunge. They’ve collaborated endlessly and co-written extensively for years.
But only now can we look forward for a full-length duo album. Buddy & Jim arrives from New West Records on December 11. I’ve had the project for a few weeks folks and it’s a landmark worth the wait. The voices blend like brothers. Buddy’s multi-chromatic guitar tones live in glorious synch with Marco Giovino’s textured percussion. The artists revitalize “Looking For A Heartache Like You” and they cover the great and gritty old folk song “Train That Carried My Girl From Town” with shiny modernity. It’s a year-ending screamer aimed at the top of your Best-Of list. This week at Roots, on our Thanksgiving Eve special edition, they’ll play a duo set, and we can express our gratitude for two amazing American music careers and the magic that’s come from the times they’ve intersected.
And as our already sold-out crowd knows, this is going to be a marvelous night of music and family tradition. We anticipate return visits from our Thanksgiving Eve regulars 18 South, Shawn Camp and Mike Farris. It’s a cornucopia of soul, country, roots and songs by the best in the business. We also welcome the Church Sisters for a full slot on the show. This prodigious pair of twins are raved over by bluegrass and deep country music fans, and we enjoyed their company before as part of a multi-guest night with Barry Waldrep and Carl Jackson. It’ll be great to have them back for a full set.
So join us online and chime in on the chat or just turn that old fashioned radio on and let us be your background music as you welcome family and friends under your own barn roof for that greatest of holidays – the one with the food and drink and fellowship and not so much of the stuff. We are honored to have you in our audience, wherever you are. We’re thankful to call you a buddy.