Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Miked - Live Reviews from Issue #74 March-April 2008

Buddy MillerEmmylou HarrisPatty GriffinShawn Colvin

Pabst Theater (Milwaukee, WI), January 19, 2008

The aw-shucks modesty of this show’s title — “Three Girls And Their Buddy” — carried over into the coziness of the setup: four comfortably utilitarian chairs arrayed in a broad semicircle across the stage. When Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, and Buddy Miller came out to occupy those chairs, they had the relaxed, collective demeanor of intimate friends who just happened to be able to play music together.

Yet this was also a group of intimate friends whose fans had just happened to fill the venue to capacity, and when Harris began the performance with a typically exquisite reading of Gillian Welch’s “Orphan Girl”, she dispelled any lingering idea that the audience had paid to see a couple hours of mere amiability.

However, the amiability did make for easy transitions as the four rotated lead-singer responsibilities. Griffin followed Harris with a simmering take on her own “Useless Desires”, Colvin took over with her wistful “Wichita Skyline”, and Miller offered a boisterous, inevitably crowd-pleasing run at “What Made Milwaukee Famous”.

This rotation, and the stripped-down instrumentation — only Miller played an electric guitar, and any non-strummed rhythms came primarily from the smack of shoe heel on wood floor — sharpened the focus both on each song and on the strengths and quirks of each singer.

Harris was the most strongly recognizable of the four, of course: Even if she hadn’t noted her 35 years on the road, her voice would have supplied that information for her. Sounding luminescent — like candles rather than fluorescent bulbs, fireflies instead of streetlights — she had such control that even the cracks of experience in her voice were filled with subtle emotional shades, and songs such as “All I Left Behind” and “Red Dirt Girl” would have sounded less real without these technical imperfections.

Griffin, although more jittery in her banter than the supremely down-home Harris, was clear and soaring during the soft mourning of “Mary” and the disarming simplicity of “Stay On The Ride”. Colvin, with a thin undertone that sounded at once jaded and childlike, conveyed bitterness, hurt, and a sliver of hope in “Get Out Of This House” and Richard Thompson’s “Keep Your Distance”.

In that last number, Miller was at least as effective an accompanist — a substitute, as it were, for Thompson himself — as he was a strong frontman on a lonesome cry such as his own “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”. As (in a nearly literal sense) the odd man out, he made himself useful by supplying guitar work that was dexterous, intuitive, and often slyly witty.

Miller was also the most directly humorous, introducing Johnnie & Jack’s “Poison Love” as “Your Poison Love Has Stained The Lifeblood Of My Heart And Soul, Dear” and generally behaving as though his powerful voice — easily a match for anyone in Nashville — was no big thing.

That it was a big thing, just like the talents of Harris, Griffin, and Colvin, wasn’t lost on the crowd. These weren’t just any three girls, and this wasn’t just anyone’s Buddy.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108


Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #74 March-April 2008

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »

From the Blogs

  • The Post-Newport Earthquake: Watkins Family Hour
    Did you feel it? That's what everybody in Los Angeles asks each other whenever a shake or quake rattles and rolls through the valleys and flatlands. Sometimes there's just a release of pressure beneath the crust, and other times it's an up and down jolt that lasts only a second. And then you forget about it. Until the next time.  Sunday night […]
  • Chris Isaak's Life Beyond the Sun
    In 2011, Chris Isaak took the long overdue step of recording an album at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn. It wasn't just any album, it was faithful interpretations of classic songs by his musical mentors and heroes: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins. It didn’t take much of a leap of imagination to predict that the album would be […]
  • Dave & Phil Alvin & the Guilty Ones – Dakota Jazz Club (Minneapolis, Minn. – July 26, 2014)
    “My brother Dave is a triple threat and I’m so proud of him – singer, songwriter, and guitar player.” That’s what Phil Alvin told a July 26 sellout crowd at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, Minn. The show was winding down but fans were totally pumped as the Alvin brothers exchanged pleasantries and showed no sign of their famed sibling rivalry after Dave […]
  • Celebrating 40 Years of Schoolkids Records: An Interview with Owner Stephen Judge
    This year marks the 40th anniversary of Watergate. That's not really anything to celebrate, it's not an accomplishment, and what's that got to do with music? Nothing. It simply marks the inevitable passage of time. But, 2014 also marks the 40th anniversary of Raleigh, N.C.'s Schoolkids Records, which is an accomplishment and is definitely […]
  • Ray LaMontagne at the Woods at Fontanel (Nashville, Tenn. – July 25, 2014)
    Ray LaMontagne writes great songs and makes great records. And that's certainly no small feat. His live shows, though, while being technically and musically superlative, really don't leave the audience with a whole lot to hang on to other than the technique and the music. There's no personal engagement on LaMontagne's part. It's as i […]
  • Freight Train Boogie Show #264 features new music from Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes
    FTB Show #264 features the new album by Old Crow Medicine Show called Remedy.  Also new music from Carolina Story, Yvette Landry and The Sweet Potatoes. Here's the iTunes link to subscribe to the FTB podcasts.  Here's the direct link to … […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!

Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter