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Tony Borton - Buddy Miller: "Universal United House of Prayer"

01/01/2005 - One of the many reasons that I consider our nation to be the greatest on the face of the earth is the fact that America is truly a melting pot. Cultural element and influence have come together here to produce a singular uniqueness, a sameness that is sometimes most evident in our music. Buddy Miller's sixth release, "Universal United House of Prayer," is a perfect example of this odd, wonderful cultural alchemy at work. On this latest collection of songs, Buddy stirs up a bowl full of traditional country, blues, folk, and gospel, then fries the whole mess up in a skillet full of soul. The result is not only tasty, but also important on some sort of societal level. This is essential music. Consider it an antidote to the endless flow of mindless drivel we typically find oozing from our radios.

Buddy Miller is truly an incredible and unheralded talent. Insiders in the music business know him to be a brilliant singer/songwriter, guitar player, and producer. He has long been associated with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, and a host of other, more visible stars.

"Universal United House of Prayer" is a genuine treat for anyone who appreciates intelligent, heartfelt music. As always, Buddy's guitar playing and singing are top notch, and the musicians he's recruited for this latest effort all manage to put in stellar work. In particular, sisters Regina and Ann McCrary put in astonishing performances singing with Buddy. Their voices drip with soul and saturate the proceedings with emotion. The songs range from earthy, soul drenched rockers, to deep spiritual sojourns, leading the listener on a musical path from Africa and Scotland, across the water and into the Appalachians, down into the bayou and over the Mississippi delta. It's tough to pick out highlights, because each song stands alone. As a collection, however, these songs add up to perhaps the most seminal and relevant releases of 2004.

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