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Buddy And Julie Miller Create Their Own Genre On 'Breakdown On 20th Ave. South'


This is FRESH AIR. It's been a decade since the husband-and-wife team of Buddy and Julie Miller released a new album. As is their style, they mix folk, country, rock and blues in their new collection of original songs called "Breakdown on 20th Ave. South." Rock critic Ken Tucker says the duo is a prime example of the way musicians, who each have their own individual style, can come together to make a synthesis that is entirely, distinctively new.


BUDDY AND JULIE MILLER: (Singing) In the night. In the night, who hears the words coming out of your mouth? In the night. In the night. Breakdown on 20th Avenue, south. I was...

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: The street address on the new Buddy and Julie Miller album "Breakdown On 20th Ave. South" locates them in their Nashville home. But their songs aren't the kind of country music that industry town usually produces.


BUDDY AND JULIE MILLER: (Singing) I'm going in. I'm going down into where the water runs clean. I want to drink. I'm going to drink it dry. You know what I mean. I want you to take me somewhere, somewhere that truth and justice kiss. I want to go down deep. I want to go up high. I want the truth to run naked, but it's hard to find in a place like this. Yeah, it's a little bit hard to find down here underneath the sky.

TUCKER: The Millers complement each other. Buddy gives Julie solid rhythms and catchy guitar riffs. Julie gives Buddy a mystical soulfulness. Each of them has released solo albums that contain excellent songs. But when they get together, they get to places they can't when they're solo. For example, Julie wrote the words to “I'm Gonna Make You Love Me,” but the song really comes to life when they sing the lyrics at each other. It's a duet that ends up being their challenge to each other, asking, in effect, can our love survive the kind of pressure we're putting on it?


BUDDY AND JULIE MILLER: (Singing) I'm going to make you love me. I'm going to make it stick. I'm going to make you love me when you've had it and I make you sick. I'm going to make you love me. We're going to be sweet and kind. I'm going to make you love me when I confuse you and you lose your mind. You're going to love me even when you think you won't. You're going to love me even when you think you don't.

TUCKER: It sounds as though this album was something of a challenge to complete. Julie has struggled with various health issues over the past decade. Buddy has done a lot of different kinds of work, producing albums for people ranging from Solomon Burke to Richard Thompson, as well as serving as the music director for the country music TV drama "Nashville." But he built a recording studio at their home to cut albums for his various clients. But the duo ended up recording most of this album in an upstairs bedroom. They liked the vibe more. Buddy produced, and Julia's credited with writing all the songs here. She's probably most personal on "Thoughts At 2am" - a secular hymn in which doubting oneself becomes a sin for which the narrator needs to forgive herself.


JULIE MILLER: (Singing) You render your oppressors silent with your wordless eyes. You own the life of every man from birth until he dies.

BUDDY AND JULIE MILLER: (Singing) You see collective evil sway like ships upon the sea, like currents carried around the world by men so mindlessly. Your enemies so fierce and cruel one day will all bow down, and every tongue confess your name compelled to make a sound.

TUCKER: Buddy and Julie Miller have always worked a synthesis of folk, country, rock and the blues with more than a few eccentric singer-songwriter pop touches thrown into the mix. It's music that amounts to its own genre - unsettling music whose beauty can be comforting and soothing.

GROSS: Ken Tucker reviewed Buddy and Julie Miller's new album "Breakdown On 20th Ave. South." Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, I'll talk with New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer about her new article investigating the accusations against Al Franken that forced him out of the Senate. She's investigated sexual harassment and assault accusations for years from Clarence Thomas to Brett Kavanaugh. She says Al Franken's chief accuser story is full of holes. I hope you can join us.


GROSS: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Mooj Zadie, Thea Chaloner and Seth Kelley. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer for digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Therese Madden directed today's show. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIAN LAGE'S "PERSIAN RUG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.