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Buddy Miller & FriendsBuddy Miller & Friends
Album: Cayamo Sessions At Sea
Label: New West
Tracks: 11

For the past eight years, an assortment of the best country, Americana, folk and roots songwriters have gathered aboard the cruise ship Cayamo, to work and play together on a week-long sea voyage. Since 2012, Buddy Miller has brought recording equipment on board too, in order to record segments for the radio show that he and Jim Lauderdale co-host on Sirius FM, and this album presents a brief selection of the recordings they made in 2014 and 2015.

These are one-off musical collaborations, and very entertaining they are too, easily transcending any potential novelty value as a kind of "Transatlantic Sessions afloat". Highlights include an intensely aching Hickory Wind from Lucinda Williams at her emotionally throatiest; a folky-honky-tonk chug through the Hank Williams hit Wedding Bells by Richard Thompson; an incomparable, hauntingly mournful take on the Stones' Wild Horses by Shawn Colvin; and a powerful mex-flavoured revisit of Sunday Morning Coming Down by its writer Kris Kristofferson. And the whole album kicks off in style with Lee Ann Womack on After The Fire Is Gone, proving anything but that. Pick of the cuts featuring lesser known names and rising stars, we find the bouncy If Teardrops Were Pennies where Elizabeth Cook and Buddy Miller do a stylish Parton & Wagoner act; the rousing gospeller Take The Hand Of Jesus, penned and sung by Doug Seegers; and the good-time duet between Jill Andrews and Buddy on Come Early Mornin'. John Prine's Angel From Montgomery forms the spiritful set closer, delivered by an ensemble with Brandi Carlisle and Buddy backed by The Lone Bellow. And talking of backing musicians, when you've got guys of the calibre of Joel Guzman and Fats Kaplan in the crew you know it's gonna be the business!

This is a way-above-merely-likeable selection, which wouldn't have outstayed its welcome if it'd been half as long again. It may be filed under "desirable" rather than "essential", sure, but it's real good to have, and I'm likely to be returning fast to well over half of its tracks, which is always a good sign.

David Kidman