Cayamo Sessions at Sea Buddy Miller and Friends NewWest/Warner
The annual eight-day Cayamo cruise has become something of an institution for performers and fans alike over the past decade. Cayamo, on its ninth voyage this week, has maintained an impressive roots line-up with a strong country bent.
Regular Cayamo performer Buddy Miller set up a makeshift recording studio on board and this collection gives a taste of what was captured in this unusual but idyllic setting in 2014 and 2015. With a mix of solid veterans including Richard Thompson, Lucinda Williams and Kris Kristofferson and spirited up-and-comers including Kacey Musgraves, Elizabeth Cook and Nikki Lane, Miller and his guests rework prime country classics from the 1950s to the 70s.
Featuring frill-free arrangements that rely on nothing but top-shelf material and talent, they slide through hits made famous by the likes of Dolly and Porter, Conway and Loretta, Hank and Don Williams, Gram Parsons, John Prine and many more. Miller stars but also readily shines the spotlight on his guests. Lane’s confident attitude oozes out of Just Someone I Used to Know while country music’s brightest hope Musgraves delights on Buck Owens’s Love’s Gonna Live Here and Jill Andrews and Miller turn Come Early Mornin’ into a classic duet.
Against those upbeat offerings, Lucinda Williams sounds almost overawed by Hickory Wind in a performance that makes for uncomfortable, yet rewarding, listening. Thompson’s English stiff upper lip is practically quivering as he becomes submerged in the misery of Wedding Bells. Shawn Colvin offers a tender take on arguably Jagger-Richards’s best ballad, Wild Horses, that matches just about any other version, the Stones’ included. Great artists, great songs, great performances (OK, Kris Kristofferson, aside). Here’s hoping Buddy is recording the next volume as you read this.