- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 16, 2005

If failing to win his first Grammy as a solo artist had any effect on Buddy Miller, it wasn’t apparent in his fiery set at the Birchmere on Tuesday, with his friends, fans and family filling the Alexandria music hall.

The notoriously circumspect Mr. Miller was downright chatty onstage, wearing his trademark baseball cap and slinging his vintage push-button Wandre guitars as well as a road-worn Gibson acoustic.

About six songs into his set, Mr. Miller told the crowd he used to introduce songs from his current release, “Universal United House of Prayer,” by saying it had been nominated for a Grammy for best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album.

“I don’t know how it happened,” he said of the nomination. “Something must have gone really wrong with the balloting.”

Randy Travis won the award Sunday night for his disc, “Worship & Faith.”

“I did lose, but it’s OK,” Mr. Miller said.

He said he didn’t expect to win, but attended the ceremony anyway, “because the food is really good.”

Although the songs on “Universal United House of Prayer” have a spiritual theme, they’re anything but traditional gospel music. Through a collision of rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, country and folk, Mr. Miller pulled together threads of spirituality that typically aren’t evident in his songs.

The CD, for instance, features a long, stirring version of Bob Dylan’s antiwar classic, “With God on Our Side.” However, it also includes “There’s a Higher Power,” from the Louvin Brothers, and opens with “Worry Too Much,” a song penned by the late Mark Heard, a Christian rock songwriter.

Mr. Miller performed all three at the Birchmere in his nearly two-hour set.

He opened with two raucous songs, his “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger” ” a hit for country singer Lee Ann Womack ” and a throbbing version of “Price of Love,” an Everly Brothers song that Mr. Miller covered on his 2002 “Midnight and Lonesome” disc with his wife, songwriter Julie Miller.

From the stage, Mr. Miller also acknowledged his family members in the audience, as well as the relatives of Emmylou Harris, with whom he has toured as guitarist for more than eight years. He also dedicated a song ” Roosevelt Jamison’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” ” to Paul Williams. The songwriter, who wed Mariana Hastings in a private ceremony in the District on Valentine’s Day, attended Tuesday’s concert with his bride.

Opening with a harmony-laced (and at times bordering on psychedelic) hourlong set was the soulful and spiritual quintet Ollabelle.

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