Here's a homemade album that totally hits the spot. Buddy Miller cut this twangy little masterpiece at his home studio, enlisting the aid of friends who dropped by to help out on various tracks. The end result, which normally would make a nice-but-disjointed demo tape, ends up being the freshest new country album to hit the boards in a while. Miller plays tasty lead guitar fills that fit like a glove with his vocals, no matter what the material. He has a world-weary, whiskey-soaked voice, full of crazed hillbilly nuances that are on open display, even on left-field entries like Gene Pitney's "I'm Gonna Be Strong," turned into a modern country radio-ready tearjerker.
Along the way, Emmylou Harris, Joy Lynn White, and Steve Earle make guest appearances. But it isn't the guests that make Cruel Moon so special; it's Miller's commitment to the material at hand, whether it's an old favorite or something he and his wife, Julie Miller, wrote together; like the lilting title track or "In Memory of My Heart," which sounds like it was recorded in an old-time radio station. There's so much personality coming off of this disc, it takes you awhile to realize that Miller's no young chicken, with a receding hairline that'll surely keep him out of whatever new hat-hunk meat-factory sweepstakes is currently dominating country music. Bypass such fashion front-running and make a beeline straight for this disc; it's as real, honest, and forward looking a country album as you're likely to encounter in these image-encrusted times.