Friday, May 11, 2001

Millers' showcase gets audience in the spirit

By Scott Moore
Enquirer contributor

        Buddy and Julie Miller transformed Newport's Southgate House into part roadhouse/part country church Wednesday night with their spiritualized blend of country and blues, with a pinch of rock 'n' roll.

        Mr. Miller proved, on more than one song, why he was named guitarist of the year at the 1999 Nashville Music Awards. He showcased his talent, yet he exercised appropriate restraint so as not to overshadow the beauty of the couple's songwriting.

        The Millers opened with “Keep Your Distance,” a straight-forward honky-tonk tune that got the crowd tapping their toes. They continued through a hoedown rock number that got the crowd dancing. Then, a haunting delta blues song left the dancers in awe.

        Mrs. Miller's delicately soulful voice expressed the spiritual longings of a contrite heart on the acoustic ballad, “Broken Things.” A delightful vocalist with a shyly humorous stage presence, she made the audience feel like old friends as she and her husband shared their songs.

        Mr. Miller displayed his genuine vocal talent on “That's How I Got To Memphis.” The opening line, “If you love somebody enough, you follow them wherever they go,” brought a hush over the audience, aching to hear where love had led the singer. The drums echoed like thunder off in the distance, blending with the soft rain of Mrs. Miller's backing vocals.

        The chemistry in the Millers' performance is a rare treat. They have fun onstage, working their craft together in beautiful, mysterious harmony.

        The opening act, Tarbox Ramblers, took the audience of 219 country fans on a trip down the Mississippi delta with their Cajun-flavored country/blues.

        Diverse in age, the crowd was clearly ready to enjoy themselves. The opener, “Bottle Up and Go” took them on a wild ride as bandleader Michael White displayed his wicked style of slide guitar.

        The crowd favorite was “The Cuckoo.” One moment the fiddle sounded like the wings of a bird flapping, the next a jammin' blues guitar solo.


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