Written in Chalk

Written in Chalk

by Julie MillerJulie Miller

Vinyl LP(Long Playing Record - Digi-Pak)

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Buddy and Julie Miller have been making records separately for over 20 years. During that time, however, despite playing on one another's recordings, this is only the second one they've made collaboratively. Written in Chalk is steeped in American music tradition. Whether it's country, blues, boozy swing, or rock, this husband-and-wife duo lays it all down with authenticity, great humor, and honest emotion. They recorded the set at their home studio in Nashville, with help from old friends like Brady Blade, Matt Rollings, Chris Donohue, John Deaderick, Jay Bellerose, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and the McCrary Sisters, as well as some new ones, including Larry Campbell and Robert Plant. Julie wrote eight of these dozen songs. They are among the most sophisticated and emotionally resonant of her career -- and that's saying plenty. The album opener is the devastatingly beautiful reminiscence "Ellis County," with Buddy's lead vocal looking back to ."..when all we could afford was laughter/And two mules instead of a tractor...where there was nothing left to throw out/When there was a light that wouldn't go out...." With Campbell's fiddle adding the high lonesome of Appalachia in the track, one can imagine Levon Helm singing this song, but it's so much more effective with Buddy and Julie. Julie Miller also writes about heartbreak in a singular way. She avoids clichés and, when singing her own songs, doesn't need to over-emote because the truth of them lies in her lyrics and soft expression. Instead, she inhabits her lyrics fully, and one can feel the weight in them as they come up from the depths of the pierced heart of her protagonists and resonate in the mournful grain of her voice. Julie helps out on two such songs, "Don't Say Goodbye," the single most devastating song on the record, and the resigned loneliness of "Chalk." In her song "Long Time," Julie's blues-drenched vocal brings to mind a young Rickie Lee Jones, but without the sass and swagger. For Julie Miller, these lyrics and her melody carry all the power they need; her delivery allows them to assert themselves -- and they do authoritatively. The smoky, boozy trumpet solo by Kami Lyle is another highlight. The pair wrote "Gasoline and Matches," which offers an honest and humorous view of a mismatched couple who nonetheless find themselves knitted inseparably together. The evocation of taut finger-popping jump jazz and blues suggests the loungey early stylings of Tom Waits, but the guitaristry belongs to Buddy alone. Plant duets with Buddy on a gritty, slithering bluesy version of Mel Tillis' "What You Gonna Do Leroy." His rootsy vocal is in perfect keeping with Gurf Morlix's lap steel and Stuart Duncan's fiddle. The closing track on this set is another cover, but this time its spiritual resonance is profound. Julie sings both background and harmony vocals with Buddy on Leon Payne's underappreciated classic "The Selfishness in Man," to send the recording off as a haunted reflection on sin. Written in Chalk is a welcome return by one of American music's great -- if under-recognized -- duos. Buddy Miller's production and guitar work have been well documented on recordings and in the critical vernacular, as have Julie Miller's songs. But together, they are an unbeatable combination and this album is the indisputable proof. Roots music is alive and well, and is being served up red hot here.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/10/2009
Label: New West Records
UPC: 0607396502127
catalogNumber: 5021

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Julie Miller   Primary Artist,Vocals,Background Vocals,Track Performer
Emmylou Harris   Vocals,Background Vocals
Robert Plant   Vocals
Matt Rollings   Piano
Larry Campbell   Fiddle,Mandolin,Violin
Dennis Crouch   Bass
Stuart Duncan   Fiddle
Patty Griffin   Vocals,Background Vocals
Byron House   Bass
Gurf Morlix   Lap Steel Guitar
Ann McCrary   Vocals,Background Vocals
Buddy Miller   Guitar,Vocals,Background Vocals,Track Performer
Russ Pahl   Pedal Steel Guitar
Jay Bellerose   Drums
Chris Donohue   Bass
Rev. Brady Blade   Drums
Kami Lyle   Trumpet
Bryan Owings   Drums
John Deaderick   Piano,Keyboards
Regina McCrary   Vocals,Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Mel Tillis   Composer
Dee Ervin   Composer
Leon Payne   Composer
Julie Miller   Songwriter,Composer,Co-Leader
Buddy Miller   Composer,Producer,Engineer,Co-Leader
Kathi Whitley   Management
Ken Levitan   Management
Grant Alden   Liner Notes
Craig Ross   Vocal Engineer
Paul Moore   Art Direction
Brian Kershisnik   Paintings

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Written in Chalk 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Mark15 More than 1 year ago
These are two artists that I have followed for awhile, but it's only recently that I've learned things about them. I saw Buddy back-up Emmylou Harris here in Connecticut a few months ago. I consider Buddy and Julie to be "left of center" country singers and I found this CD to be well recorded. The overall impression is one of versatlity and the vocals were quite passionate. Occasionally, I heard some weak song lyrics, but generally the material is good, as well as the arranging and instrumental work. I heard Buddy recently had some health problems. I hope he gets well soon and is able to build on the momentum of this fine recording.
Dottie0 More than 1 year ago
Loved it