Friday Five: Buddy Miller

Juli Thanki | October 14th, 2011

In addition to releasing his own solo records and projects with his wife Julie, Buddy Miller is one of the most in-demand musicians in American roots music. Chances are that even if you don’t own any of his own records, you have at least half a dozen albums in your collection featuring his singing or guitar playing. Here are a few of my favorite songs on which Miller has appeared as a guest. What are your favorite Buddy Miller cameos?

5. Carrie Rodriguez – “Wide River to Cross”

Rodriguez covered this Buddy and Julie song (which also appeared on Buddy’s United Universal House of Prayer and Levon Helm’s Dirt Farmer) for her 2010 album Love & Circumstance.

4. Lee Ann Womack – “Don’t Tell Me”

This song, penned by Buddy and Julie, appears on Womack’s late ‘90s album Some Things I Know. Womack must be a fan of the Millers, because on her next album, she cut two of Julie’s songs, including the Buddy co-write and Americana staple “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger.” Anyway, as far as love songs go, you don’t get much better than lyrics like “Tell the world to stop turning around/Tell the sky not to be so blue…But don’t tell me to stop loving you.”

3. Preservation Hall Jazz Band – “I Ain’t Got Nobody”

Miller’s voice is rougher around the edges than the Mills Brothers’ version, but it suits this song from a 2010 Preservation Hall benefit album.

2. Patty Griffin – “Never Grow Old”

I could listen to these two sing gospel songs all day long. Or any songs, really.

1. Emmylou Harris – “Love Hurts”

On this achingly gorgeous song from Harris’ 1998 live album Spyboy, Miller ably fills Gram Parsons’ role as Emmylou’s duet partner.


  1. Paul W Dennis
    October 14, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Video #3, “I Ain’t Got Nobody”, features the most talented pop vocal group of all time. The Mills Brothers had a pop chart run that ran from 1931 until about 1968. They had the ability to mimic musical instruments effectively – on the clip above the only actual instrument is the guitar

    The Mills Brothers were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998 and have been under consideration for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence (although not yet inducted).

    The Mills Brothers continued performing as a group (trio or quartet) until 1982 when the death of Harry Mills left the group with only two surviving members . Along the way they charted on Billboard’s country chart in 1970 and recorded country songs on numerous occasions during their long career

  2. Barry Mazor
    October 14, 2011 at 10:54 am

    For that matter, Paul, the song was decades old before the mid-30s and the Mills Bros. See: Emmett Miller, Bing Crosby, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong. .Just noting.

  3. Juli Thanki
    October 14, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Yep, Bessie Smith’s version is fab, and since there was no live footage of Buddy doing the song on YouTube, I used it as an excuse to post that live Mills Brothers performance. Didn’t know that tidbit about the Mills and the HoF, so thanks, Paul!

  4. Paul W Dennis
    October 14, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Agreed Barry – it is quite an old song. I have the Emmett Miller, Bing Crosby, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong recordings plus Louis Prima and some others . The Mills Brothers is my favorite recording although Prima’s (part of a medley with “Just A Gigolo”)is a close second (one of the few songs Prima recorded where his version isn’t my absolute favorite

    For that matter, I really loved Cab Calloway’s version of the song , too

  5. Jon
    October 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

    the most talented pop vocal group of all time.


  6. Paul W Dennis
    October 14, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Jon – who’s your candidate – Rascal Flatts ??
    The Sons of The Pioneers ? SheDaisy ?

  7. nm
    October 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Lee Ann Womack had Buddy and Julie in her band performing “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger” on the Grammys one year.

  8. Jon
    October 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    The original Fisk Jubilee Singers.

  9. Paul W Dennis
    October 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Jon – (a) I don’t regard gospel singers as pop singers (b) I’ve heard the Fisk Jubilee Singers – they are great but I wouldn’t rank them above the Mills Brothers (c) I don’t know how many are currently in the group but in the past they’ve been a larger group sometimes exceeding ten singers which is a whole ‘nother thing from comparing them to a trio or quartet

  10. Jon
    October 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Someone needs to enhance his sense of humor.

    The point is that, for a multiplicity of reasons, it’s a ludicrous claim to make about any group. Especially, as my little joke was meant to illustrate, the “all time” part.

  11. luckyoldsun
    October 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    If Paul likes something, he’s prone to say that it’s the greatest something-or-other of all-time. It’s just a rhetorical device, I guess.

  12. Jeremy Dylan
    October 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    Buddy’s guitar work is all over Jim Lauderdale’s early records – his playing and harmonies on the Pretty Close to the Truth album are stellar.

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