In an alternative universe, Buddy and Julie Miller are the reigning king and queen of contemporary country music.

In an alternative universe, Buddy and Julie Miller are the reigning king and queen of contemporary country music. On their first full album together, they shine like diamonds, with 11 songs that are as real as dirt. In many ways, this is a Julie Miller show: She wrote seven of the songs (all superbly crafted), and her little-girl-lost vocal is infinitely more interesting than most of what mainstream country offers. She's Tom Petty's feminine side on the blistering "You Make My Heart Beat Too Fast" and a wounded sparrow on the sultry-spooky "Dirty Water." For his part, Buddy Miller offers granite to his wife's morning dew, a blending that slays on such excellent duets as the gently thrumming "Keep Your Distance" and the mountain blues "Little Darlin'." Bob Dylan's "Wallflower" is hillbilly honk in the Millers' hands, and "Rachel," a touching, brilliant tribute to a prescient Columbine victim, addresses that tragedy better than a thousand "experts" ever could. This is one fine, fine piece of work.—RW

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