- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

Nashville-based husband-and-wife recording artists Buddy and Julie Miller were packing last week to go on tour to support their latest release, issued Sept. 18.
Although this is the couple's first album together, the two are Nashville veterans. They have appeared on each other's recordings during the past six years Mr. Miller having three solo discs and Mrs. Miller recording two, all on Hightone Records.
Mr. Miller has backed Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris on national and international tours. He was named the 1999 Nashville Music Awards guitarist of the year. Mrs. Miller has earned critical acclaim as a vocalist and songwriter.
Yet the two are far from stardom.
"Buddy & Julie Miller," the album, however, is winning the couple some new fans. "I heard it did better than any of our other records," Mrs. Miller says. The disc debuted at No. 45 on the Billboard Country Album Chart.
"My goal is to make a record that I can stand to listen to after five years without cringing," Mr. Miller says.
The Millers will ring in 2002 at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria on Jan. 1 with a 7:30 p.m. show, opened by singer-songwriter Florence Dore. On Jan. 3, the Millers are scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. show at the Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis.
After this monthlong tour with Texas-based bassist and producer Gurf Morlix and percussionist Bryan Owings, the Millers will hit the road to back up Miss Harris on a rootsy coast-to-coast tour for "Down From the Mountain." The tour comes to Constitution Hall in Washington on Feb. 4 and 5.
Mrs. Miller wrote most of the material for the couple's new record the two co-wrote one song and Mrs. Miller wrote seven but she insists it was just a matter of timing. Mr. Miller was coming off a long tour, and she had spent the time home in Nashville writing songs.
The music has been described as "roots" or alternative country "alt-country" in current parlance and the Millers have no problem with either label, although they say their influences run from the 1970s punk prophets MC5 to R&B;, and from Celtic to the classic 1960s country of Dallas Frazier.
"I understand that it's trying to describe music that is really indescribable, really," Mrs. Miller says. "'Roots' is one of the closest, I guess."
But when it came to recording, Mrs. Miller says the couple "didn't have anything conscious [in mind], we just kind of took what came out."
She says she wrote a song with a mental image of early Dolly Parton-Porter Waggoner harmonies, and that feeling comes through in "Forever Must Come to an End," one of her compositions on the disc that features harmonies by the Millers with Miss Harris.
"That's like what I thought the whole record would be," she says. "But that was the only one."
Mr. Miller says that "I think I'm just playing country music, until I make the record and they call it alternative and I turn on the radio and find out why."
"For Julie, if there's anything alt-country about what she does, it's my fault," he says. "I might have put a fiddle in a song or something.
"A lot of folks tagged [as] alt-country are just on labels that don't sell a lot of records, and can't afford to sell a lot of records," Mr. Miller says. "A lot of folks operating under this umbrella of alt-country write songs that could have a popular appeal."
Witness the Millers.
They have each written songs covered by artists who are more mainstream. Mr. Miller's songs have been performed by the Dixie Chicks, Hank Williams III and Lee Ann Womack who was backed by the Millers when she sang "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger" on the nationally televised Country Music Awards program. Mrs. Miller's songs have been widely recorded. The folk trio Cry Cry performed "By Way of Sorrow," and trio member Lucy Kaplansky recorded "Broken Things" on her latest solo effort. Jazz vocalist Little Jimmy Scott and Miss Harris both covered her song "All My Tears."
"We never wrote the songs with that in mind," Mr. Miller says. "We just wrote them and they ended up on our records. So when somebody the status of Lee Ann Womack, the Dixie Chicks or Emmylou decides to sing it, that's just great."
WHAT: Buddy and Julie Miller
WHERE: Birchmere Music Hall, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 1
TICKETS: $17.50
PHONE: 703/573-SEAT, 410/481-SEAT or 202/432-SEAT or go online to www.birchmere.com.

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