"You were left with a broken wing, the one love left behind/ in the arms of the night with nowhere to go." - Fire And Water - Buddy and Julie Miller.

Death looms eerily in the heart and soul of Buddy Miller's sixth solo album Universal United House Of Prayer (New West-Shock.)

The title and CD slick picture are taken from a now defunct East Nashville church.

Buddy recorded it in his Dog House home studio that he moved across the road to a bigger house from where the Millers lived for 11 years.

Miller kicks off with Worry Too Much, penned by late Christian singer Mark Heard, and country gospel Louvin Brothers classic, There's a Higher Power.

Buddy and singing spouse Julie dedicated the disc and song Fire And Water to her brother Jeff Griffin who died last year when struck by lightning.

"I knew I wanted to make a different record and sort of a gospel record, and when things went south in the world I knew I wanted to have it all connected and have a few parallel themes," Miller, 51 revealed recently.

"It's funny how things in life just started to change the record. My wife's brother passed away a year ago - he was struck by lightning - and that had a big effect on us. Things like that happening and the state of the world all stirred the pot, so to speak."


Worry Too Much illustrates the state of the world - endless uncivil wars entered by the Bush battalions that rage with no likely finish date.

"I engineered the record that he recorded it on - and I remembered that the other war with the older Bush had just started when he wrote that song and that's sort of what it was about," Miller added.

"And, again, like the Dylan song, which is 40 years old, Mark's song is from the other war and still so relevant."

Dylan's 1963 tune With God On Our Side - is an historic ode to battles fuelled by gun and bomb manufacturers' greed.

"I've been doing the Dylan song since the war broke out," says Miller. "Well, it didn't exactly break out. Since the war started, I couldn't get that song out of my head. I'd went out on tour and started it doing it live back then. I'd leave out verses when I was doing it live because it had so many."

But Miller included all verses, adorned with fresh instrumentation, when he cut the album.

"When it came time to record it, I realised I can't leave out any verses," Buddy added, "I thought about them all, and they all had to go in, that's what the song is, even the Russian verse, which is still so relevant."


Miller wrote four songs with Julie, two with Jim Lauderdale and one with Victoria Williams.

The originals embrace country blues on Shelter Me, the wistful Wide River To Cross, frenetic Don't Wait, rootsy gospel in Is That You and Julie's gospel blues finale Fall On The Rock.

In Is That You Miller asks his master - "did you wear a crown, and was it made of thorns/ did you go down to hell and back for me?"

And to enrich the gospel he hired Regina and Ann McCrary - daughters of Fairfield Four founder Rev. Sam McCrary - to sing on nine of the 11 songs.

The folksy jug band feel of Old World enables the Millers social comment on war.

"Shake my head and wonder how much more/ the bells are tolling on the streets of the world/ what time is it, help me understand/ why is war in the heart of man."

Buddy enlisted Julie, Jim and Emmylou Harris to harmonise but tours to promote the album won't bring them here.

"Julie was involved in Contemporary Christian Music a long time ago, but they didn't like her too much in that world, and we didn't do that many gigs, and we weren't very comfortable there," says Miller.



When Buddy Miller produced a duets album for wife Julie she wrote Rachel's Tears about a Colorado high school student slaughter at the 11th hour.

So it was no surprise that when Miller was mixing his fourth album his singing spouse came to the rescue again.

On July 2 - the album deadline day - Julie was inspired by the rescue of miners from a Pennsylvania pit cave-in and wrote Quecreek.

"On the morning I was finishing this record nine miners were freed through a series of miracles, toil and prayer from Pennsylvania's Quecreek mine after they were trapped for three days and nights," Buddy told Nu County on the eve of his fourth Australian tour.

"Julie wrote this song and we recorded it a few hours after their rescue."

The song is a highlight of Miller's album, Midnight & Lonesome, released here at least two months before the U.S.

Such spontaneity is an eerie echo of the Miller's previous social comment songs 100 Million Little Bombs - about land mines - and Rachel's Tears.

It helps that the Miller's Dogtown studio - locale for recording of more than 12 albums in the past six years, is in a lounge room of their Nashville home they share with two cats Toe and Hoboken.


For this album Julie wrote seven songs including the title track - two with her husband, and one with Jim Lauderdale who toured here in January.

"Julie is the greatest writer, it's so good to have her in the house,' says Miller 49 and one time member of singing Texan crime novelist Kinky Friedman's Texas Jewboys. "I don't have to go to too many other places."

The Millers have written a brace of hits for superstars diverse as Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, Brooks & Dunn and Lee Ann Womack.

They met at the peak of the progressive country movement in Texas capital Austin in 1976 and celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in November of 2002.

The twin towers bombings fuelled Buddy's terrorist legacy song Water When The Well Is Dry, written with Bill Mallonee member of the band Vigilantes Of Love for whom Miller produced the album Audible Sigh.

The bombing occurred just one week before the release of the Miller duet disc Buddy And Julie Miller and the duo felt a hollowness touring to promote it.

"I suppose it was somewhat healing to be out there playing," Miller revealed, "but part of me just how unimportant it all seemed in the scope of things."


Buddy Miller sings the praises frequently of Julie whose songs have been cut by Texan chart topper Lee Ann Womack, 38, and daughter of a Texas DJ.

"Julie is the greatest writer, it's so good to have her in the house,' says Buddy, "I don't have to go to too many other places."

Buddy and Jim landed Hole In My Head on Dixie Chicks fifth album Fly but dipped out on the Dixie Chicks sixth disc Home.

Miller opened his 2002 album Midnight And Lonesome with Everly Brothers hit The Price Of Love and Emmylou guested on his cover of Jesse Winchester's A Showman's Life but not on Percy Mayfield's Please Send Me Someone To Love.

Lee Ann Womack>

And mainstream Texan chart topper Womack, who has covered five Miller family tunes, performs the vocal on Julie's song I Can't Get Over You.

The Millers performed their song Does My Ring Burn Your Finger with Womack on the 2001 CMA Awards show and earn healthy royalties from her versions of their tunes.

"Lee Ann recorded two more of Julie's songs I Need You and Orphan Train - both from Julie's album Broken Things on her new album," Buddy revealed, "it was really a big surprise to us."

"When I heard her sing Orphan Train it was like wow she made me think I wrote a really great song," says Julie Miller.

"I feel that she heard somewhat of my own heart in this song. And there aren't that many people who would."

Womack's fifth album There's More Where That Came From features a brace of stone country songs such as I May Hate Myself in the Morning, One's a Couple, Twenty Years and Two Husbands Ago, Painless and Stubborn (Psalm 151.)


Buddy was shocked when Womack covered those tunes but it was not quite as much as when Rolling Stone writer and latter day movie director Cameron Crowe credited Julie as the inspiration for his movie Vanilla Sky.

"Cameron wrote on his web site that part of the inspiration for Vanilla Sky came from Julie's song By Way Of Sorrow," Miller revealed.

Crowe wrote: "Nashville songwriter Julie Miller has written an intoxicating acoustic ballad called By Way Of Sorrow. I feel like it set our movie's tone."

That praise earned her Hollywood acclaim but not the royalties spawned from covers of their songs by artists diverse as Garth Brooks, Brooks & Dunn, Emmylou, George Ducas, Suzy Bogguss, Dixie Chicks and Sydney singer Clint Beattie.

"That blew us away," Buddy confessed, "I couldn't believe he knew about the song. But it didn't make it into the movie or soundtrack."

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