Buddy & Julie Miller Buddy & Julie Miller

In their first official collaboration, alt-country's best-loved husband and wife deliver a powerful collection that combines the best of their individual solo releases. What makes this album better is the obvious interplay that exists just below the surface. It's easy to make comparisons with the great Richard & Linda Thompson soap opera records - Richard's "Keep Your Distance" is even covered here - but the Millers' rollicking spirit leads to a much more well-rounded emotional impact. Buddy's subtle yet powerful guitar skills are once again in full display, while Julie's vocals come across somewhere between Victoria Williams-like innocence and a sultry backwoods siren. Aside from the Thompson cover, they also breathe new life into Bob Dylan's "Wallflower," but it is the originals, "Little Darlin'" and "Dirty Water," that are the album's high points. Ironically, they continue the Millers' preoccupation with love gone wrong, when their own relationship seems as strong as ever. Still, that's barely a distraction when the fragile optimism of Julie's song writing becomes dominant towards the end with "That's Just How She Cries," and "Rachel," a tribute to the victims of the Columbine school shooting. Buddy & Julie Miller is one of the most uplifting albums of this year and, hopefully, the beginning of many more collaborations between the two. (Hightone)