Talk about nice work if you can get it! Early each year, the annual Cayamo Festival Cruise takes a couple thousand music fans on an ocean cruise through the Caribbean Islands, with a stellar lineup of singer/songwriters and roots music artists on board to perform for the passengers and mingle with their fans. Buddy Miller has been a frequent performer at the festival, and with a number of like-minded musicians out to sea for a week, he often found himself swapping tunes with his fellow performers. In 2012, Miller brought a portable recording rig with him so he and his friend Jim Lauderdale could record some of these jam sessions for their satellite radio show, The Buddy & Jim Radio Hour. Miller's recording sessions became a regular part of the Cayamo experience, and Cayamo Sessions at Sea collects 11 performances captured during the annual cruise. For the most part, these tracks find the artists covering personal favorites, with the exception of Kris Kristofferson, who brings plenty of craggy authority to his classic "Sunday Morning Coming Down," and Doug Seegers, who takes the vacationers to church with a passionate rendition of "Take the Hand of Jesus." Elsewhere, Lucinda Williams sounds ragged but right on Gram Parsons' "Hickory Wind," Richard Thompson is marvelous on the classic weeper "Wedding Bells," Shawn Colvin wrings every drop of soul out of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," and Kacey Musgraves brings hope to the honky tonk on Buck Owens' "Love's Gonna Live Here." Those looking for a great cheatin' song should cue up Nikki Lane's take on "Just Someone I Used to Know." As is his habit, Miller's guitar work and supporting vocals are splendid and tastefully restrained on every track, and his crew of backing musicians -- including bassist David Jacques, drummer Marco Giovino, and multi-instrumentalist Fats Kaplan -- are all but flawless. In many ways, Cayamo Sessions at Sea works best as a commercial for the ocean-going festival, but it also offers glimpses of some very talented artists crossing paths and sounding like fans, as well as musicians, as they make their way through some songs they clearly love.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming