REVIEW: Buddy & Julie Miller’s “Breakdown on 20th Avenue South” is Special Magic


Buddy & Julie Miller – Breakdown on 20th Avenue South – New West Records

The first new LP by this remarkable duo in 10-years is a home studio-recorded collection written by Julie Miller & fleshed out with discipline by Buddy Miller’s signature backup vocal & fluid guitar style.

My introduction to Buddy was recent. Aware of his work, it was the bare bones “Written in Chalk,” that perked my ears. Then, I saw Buddy, the lone male, on stage in “Three Girls and their Buddy,” on Soundstage: Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin & Patty Griffin. Quite excellent.

The 12-new tracks possess what many singer-songwriters have in their own songwriting recipes but once they put it in a bowl & mix it up in this manner – few ever quite come up with the same flavors as Buddy & Julie. I don’t know, maybe it’s the special magic of Buddy’s gruff hobo-troubadour voice with his haunting electric leads with Julie’s unorthodox slightly complex child-like tone — half Emmylou Harris, half-Patti Scialfa. But it all works.

The title track cooks nicely but the atmosphere thickens with “Feast of the Dead,” and the mandolin-like deep notes mix with Julie’s gothic-like voice & its progression. Their kindred voices are masterful. By track 3 “Everything Is Your Fault,” delves closer to a singing style mindful of 60’s folkie Melanie Safka (“Some Say I Got Devil,” “Lay Down, Candles in the Rain”).

Buddy’s guitar holds atmospherically. Some may find Julie’s voice too creepy-sweet. Yet, I find Julie’s voice charming & it sets her apart from the cookie-cutter chart-topping female vocalists that add confection to their performances but never add flavor or originality.

The public likes familiarity – yet, it’s a voice like this that stings with a sharper truth & is referenced in later years. “Unused Heart,” is so good I hear Mick Jagger’s voice potentially covering this with the Stones.

“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” chimes beautifully as played on an Italian-made electric guitar. Julie & Buddy’s voices crisscross into each other to form a unified vocal. This duo is exemplary when working this side of the street musically. Julie’s vocal respectfully dilutes the Buddy Miller brusque vocals. She takes a hard potato, mashes it, adds butter, some salt & the result is tasteful…Buddy can be a great vocalist for a woman to sing with.

I like songs that have a thickness in production. If these were produced at home that’s commendable.

The 5-minute “Underneath the Sky” has an ass-kick reminiscent of Richard & Linda Thompson, Clive Gregson with Christine Collister. The Brady Blade hi-hat chime, the thud of drums, & Rick Plant’s steady bass provide no glossy finish, just persistent potent fills where it supports the grind of Buddy’s guitar & Julie’s galvanic vocals.

“Spittin’ on Fire,” & “Secret,” feature more Buddy. While not all the songs carry the quality of the incredible “Written in Chalk,” the majority have the essence that is that same pen.

Buddy & Julie Miller are veterans of the Americana-Roots-Folk-alt-Country genre. A marvelous team. Despite the stripped recording process – this is a quality collection. Not every artist can do this. It’s admirable to see that some music can be recorded & preserved without spending millions of dollars.

Produced/played by Buddy & Julie Miller except where noted on the LP. Release: June 21st, 2019.



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