Big Country

The Millers would just as soon not embrace the mantle of alt-country icons. But they have.
Michael Wilson

Like Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, Buddy and Julie Miller are one of the great duos of country. Their work is truly white American soul music of the best kind. Soul, in this sense, doesn't necessarily mean music with a funky backbeat (though on album, Buddy displays his R&B stripes from time to time), but rather music that touches the soul, and inspires and informs.

The Millers have become icons of the alt-country movement, and for good reason. Together, and with others, they pen songs that spring from and apply to real life -- the art of true country songwriting.

Buddy sings like some magical combination of George Jones and Otis Redding, full of sincerity and emotion, while Julie's quivering whisper of a voice seems to contain both a tear and a smile. Buddy is an intelligent and economical guitarist who plays only the notes that matter, understanding that the silence between the tones is just as important. He has also proved himself a gifted sideman/foil for such artists as Harris, Steve Earle and Jim Lauderdale, among others, and an incredibly savvy and sympathetic producer for his and Julie's solo recordings (not to mention on albums such as Jimmie Dale Gilmore's latest, One Endless Night).

But what imbedded this duo deep in my heart was something more personal: During the funeral for our mutual friend Donald Lindley (former drummer for Lucinda Williams), Buddy and Julie performed Julie's song "Broken Things." It was the one moment in that Mormon church when I actually felt the benevolent presence of a divine and healing God to ease me through a time of great sadness and awful spiritual confusion.

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This is the promise of one of their all-too-rare tours: The opportunity to experience a show that can be inspiring and even transformational. Buddy's devotional and tradition-minded approach to modern roots music can renew one's faith in country. And the strong spiritual undercurrent in Julie's luxuriant songs creates a sense that something greater is at work in this earthly existence. The quality of the music, and the reverence the Millers show for it, only augment their combined impact.

Transformation? Inspiration? Heavenly music? All for the price of admission? Seems like one helluva potential bargain.

-- Rob Patterson

Buddy and Julie Miller perform Thursday, April 27, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. For more information, call (713)528-5999.

Three Black Pimps -- Actually, Three Black Pimps is not a trio of womanizers. It is a unit of revered and renowned East Coast DJs/producers/remixers -- Africa Islam, Jesse Saunders and Tyree Cooper -- whose records have earned each member a well-deserved place in the annals of house history.

The Bronx-born Islam considers himself the "spiritual" son of legendary rap DJ Afrika Bambaataa and has produced tracks for hard hitters such as Ice-T. Chicago native Saunders is seen by many as the father of house, recording such standards as "On and On" and "Love Can't Turn Around." And fellow Chicagoan Cooper secured his title as a believer of bass when he put it to use on "Turn Up the Bass." Their reputations have made them icons across the European underground scene. This concert marks the first time these turntablists will perform together in the States. Three Black Pimps performs Saturday, April 29, at the A&M Entertainment Center, 3917 Anderson. Tickets are $15. Doors open at 8 p.m. For more information, call (713)629-3700. (Craig D. Lindsey)

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