Buddy Miller Midnight And Lonesome

Coming off his first official collaboration with his wife, 2001's Buddy and Julie Miller, Midnight And Lonesome could instantly be faulted for not repeating that long-awaited equal billing. While it is another worthy addition to Miller's rapidly growing body of work, and Julie remains a strong supporting presence throughout the album, it sounds like Buddy has simply slipped back into a familiar formula. Still, few roots rock artists make records as well as Miller. His dark, traditionally-informed songwriting, combined with rich, textured production has become a blueprint for many alt-country wannabes. But aside from a few surprises, such as his rediscovery of the Everly Brothers' bottomlessly painful "The Price Of Love," the insightful "A Showman's Life," and "Quecreek," a tribute to the nine miners who survived three days buried last year, too much of this material is just Miller flexing his musical muscles. Again, that's not a bad thing; J.J. Cale made an entire career out of almost exactly the same approach. But with Miller's reputation now without question, it's time that he perhaps pushes himself a bit harder, instead of seemingly making the same record each time out. (Hightone)