BUDDY AND JIM - Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale

Friendship is at the heart of one of the best albums of the year.

Brother-acts like the Louvins, the Everlys, the Delmores, and others have created some of our most memorable music, but every once in awhile that same kind of intuitive harmony exists between close friends like Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale.

Long embraced as two of Nashville's most beloved singer-songwriters, the pair have been singing together more than thirty years and have now joined forces to create Buddy and Jim, a collection of perfectly produced gems that explores the highs and lows of love and continues the long tradition of male duet acts. Produced by Grammy winner Miller, the record contains a track list that juxtaposes playful songs of joy right against mournful tunes of longing.

Miller is a multi-instrumentalist, an acclaimed singer-songwriter, and has become one of the most sought-after producers in the business, producing widely praised albums by Solomon Burke, Patty Griffin, Carolina Chocolate Drops, and music from the hit television show "Nashville". Two-time Grammy winner Lauderdale is one of the top songwriters in the industry, with songs recorded by some of the most recognizable names in music, and has a rabid cult following of his own music. The two met on the New York City music scene in the 1980s and have collaborated ever since. These days they're even co-hosting a popular radio show on Sirius XM Outlaw Radio. For the last couple decades they've flirted with the idea of doing a record together, and have finally made it happen.

When the opportunity arose, they didn't waste any time. The album was recorded in three days, although Miller laughs that "it sounds more like it took four." He mixed the record in just two days. Despite the short timeframe, the album does not lack in depth. In fact, Miller believes that the quick turnaround preserved some of the energy that happened in the studio. "I don't like to over-think or second guess," he says. "I don't want things to be able to mold over for long periods."

Lauderdale says Miller succeeded. "The magic is preserved," he says. "That's why he's one of the best producers today." But Lauderdale also acknowledges that their long friendship is the main reason that the album works. "We've known each other for so long, done harmony for so long, that our voices fit really well together, and we have a good intuitive feel for each other. And we also manage to show our influences while also making it our own."

That sound somehow manages to strike the balance of being retro and completely new at the same time by paying homage to influences like Sam and Dave or Johnnie and Jack while also bearing the stamp of two artists who have firmly established their signature sounds.

Miller originally conceived the album as a collection of covers, but Lauderdale argued for including some of their own tracks. "We enjoy writing together, and we only get a chance to do that when we are doing a project, so after all these years of talking about doing a record together, I didn't want to let that opportunity go by," Lauderdale says. Most of the originals were written late at night while recording the covers for the album. All of the songs fit together in perfect sequence to result in an album that delves into all the emotions of being in love - the good and the bad - with a definite emphasis on the fun.

"We wanted to make a really up-tempo, rocking, fun record that isn't filled with ballads. Ballads are the most fun to sing and sometimes you just put the up-tempo songs between - usually, it's all about the ballads - but I thought, this time, let's make a record that's rocking and fun," Miller says. "We had a lot of fun making this album, and I think it comes through. Besides, we have the best players in town on here, so I wanted to highlight that."

Miller is right: the album boasts a who's-who of the best pickers in the business: Stuart Duncan (fiddle, mandolin, banjo); Russ Pahl (steel guitar, banjo); Dennis Crouch (upright bass); Marco Giovino (percussion), Patterson Barrett (keyboards), with Miller on electric guitars and Lauderdale on acoustic guitars.

Everything fits together perfectly on Buddy and Jim: the music, the harmonies, the influences. But most of all it is the camaraderie that comes through loud and clear, giving us two veterans of the industry at the top of their games, offering an album that is moving in every sense of the word: foot-stomping, emotional, and a testimony to the power of friendship.