If you’re a new visitor to this blog, the purpose of my Wrestling With The Angel series (or category) is to highlight and share individual songs that are on a list of mine entitled: Devastatingly Great Songs. The title phrase, “Wrestling With The Angel,” is my paraphrase of a line from a poem by Herman Melville called “Art.” You can read the complete poem in my archived post of November 4, 2011: “The Source.”
I first saw and heard singer/guitarist/songwriter Buddy Miller in August of 2004.
Buddy was touring that summer with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings in an entourage billed as the Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue. I had the very good fortune to see their show on August 21 at the Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center (now known as the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion) in Gilford, NH.
During his outstanding solo spot, Buddy featured a few songs from his May 2004 album, Universal United House of Prayer. I picked up a copy of this fabulous CD not long after the concert and found that some of the best songs on it were co-written by Buddy and his wife, Julie Miller. (J.T.L.Y.K.: This album contains the best cover version ever of the Bob Dylan song, “With God On Our Side.”)
I again saw and heard Buddy Miller perform in October of 2009. Buddy was touring that Fall with Emmylou Harris as part of her back-up band, Her Red Dirt Boys, and as her opening act. I caught their show on October 16 at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, in Hampton Beach, NH.
As I had hoped he would, Buddy played several songs during his set from Written In Chalk, the album that he and Julie had released together in March of that year. This record is way up on my short list of albums that I simply cannot encourage you strongly enough to go out and buy yourself a copy of (or sit there and download) and then listen to as soon as you possibly can.
Sadly however, on that October evening at Hampton Beach, Buddy Miller did not play my favorite song from Written In Chalk.
That song is “Ellis County.”
“Ellis County” was written by Julie Miller.
Ellis County is the county in Texas that contains Waxahachie, the town were, on July 12, 1956, Julie was born.
“Take me back to places where my memory tarries,” Julie wrote, in the bridge of the song.
The recording of “Ellis County” that Julie and Buddy produced for Written In Chalk is, to me, exhilarating. I find it to be the kind of performance – full of passionate, exuberant vocals and masterfully played instruments (real instruments carefully recorded to envelope you in a sound like you were sitting right in the middle of the living room with the band playing around you) – that never fails to kick my however-weary engine into a joyous, uncontainable overdrive.
All of that, of course, would be nothing but window dressing without the finely crafted words and music of Julie Miller’s superb song.
But don’t just take it from me! You should, by all means, listen for yourself.
Julie Miller sings behind Buddy’s lead vocals on that track. Buddy also plays guitar. Accompanying the duo are Brady Blade on drums, Chris Donahue on bass, Larry Campbell on fiddle and John Deaderick on keyboards.
P.S., Dear Followers and Readers: I’ve been wanting to write about and share “Ellis County” with you for some time, but I’d not been able to find an embed-able copy of the original studio recording… until yesterday!
Thank you, YouTube! Thank you, Warner Music Group and New West Records!
Thank you, Buddy and Julie Miller.
“Good music doesn’t get old.”