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Buddy Miller
UNIVERSAL UNITED HOUSE OF PRAYER
(New West)

Buddy Miller albums sound as old as the hills and just as indestructible. House of Prayer, his fifth solo outing, is that rare Grammy-nominated album that doesnít suck corporate wind, but itís really just another typically stellar Miller collection of songs brimming with a lifetimeís worth of hard-bitten truths, hard-won victories, and bracingly bitter shots of straight-up country gospel. Again teaming with his wife and frequent co-writer, Julie Miller, the singer/guitarist places some well-chosen covers ó the Louvin Brothersí sanctified Sunday clap-along "Thereís a Higher Power" and Dylanís snide broadside "With God on Our Side" ó alongside instantly ancient-sounding Buddy-and-Julie reveries like the starkly powerful "Is That You" and "Returning." The latter is a country-blues shuffle that Miller lets bleed with Hammond B-3 organ and a tasty recurring electric-guitar lick that sounds like Sun meets Stax.

Thereís a ramshackle, gather-round-the-kitchen-table spirit that infuses these careworn yet trenchant songs about blind faith, Judgment Day, and minds in trouble. Millerís dusty, unvarnished voice is front and center here, but the sublime, omnipresent backing of vocalists Regina and Ann McCrary (daughters of Fairfield Four founder Reverend Sam McCrary), not to mention Emmylou Harris, who shows up to harmonize on "Wide River To Cross," gives Millerís material the kind of soul-searching depth befitting music that sounds as sacred as it does stunning.

(Buddy Miller performs this Sunday, February 20, at the Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Avenue, in Boston; call 617-562-8800.)

BY JONATHAN PERRY


Issue Date: February 18 - 24, 2005
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