Home > CCM, Christian Music, Christian Pop, Christian Rock, Greatest Albums, Jesus Music > 81. Meet Julie Miller – Julie Miller

81. Meet Julie Miller – Julie Miller

MEET JULIE MILLER (1990)

Julie Miller

Dear God, how I love this album!

There is not one wasted note, riff or beat anywhere to be found. Some may find Miller’s quirky, child-like voice an acquired taste, but I rather consider it simply needing an educated palette.

After a very short stint with the group Streetlight, which only recorded an EP, with her husband Buddy Miller, Julie was signed by Myrrh and immediately they began the horrific mistake of touting their Leslie Phillips replacement and their answer  to Cyndi Lauper.

What they actually had was a brilliant songwriter, singer and performer. Talent runs deep in the Miller household and CCM;s inability to grasp the fact and promote her properly left her looking to mainstream and independent channels for the majority of her fine career.

But in 1990 a wonderful, melodic, accessible and utterly enjoyable album found a home in my CD rotation and has never left it. Rich in harmonies, memorable melodies and brilliant musicianship, Meet Julie Miller was a brilliant introduction to the artist.

The 30-second acapella blues number “Dogtown” starts the record before launching right into one of the radio hits from the album, “You Knew the Way to My Heart.” Melodic, pop-driven Americana rock with a hook of a chorus so large you could drive a truck through it. Miller’s ability to work her voice through whispering, soft moments to gravelly pop hooks is quite impressive. The use of her own voice in the backing vocals just works in creating the perfect harmonies in the bridge.

“Mystery Love” follows in the same vein with the bluesy, jangly rock (Mark Heard and T-Bone Burnett would be proud) style. This is one of the few songs that reminds me musically of Leslie Phillips, though one of the great ironies is that Phillips is said to be the one who passed along Miller’s demo to the execs at Myrrh in the first place.

We have mentioned “classics” and what qualifies as one several times on this blog. I firmly believe Miller has one here on this project and it remains her one biggest hit on Christian radio though clocking in at nearly 6 minutes (most stations played the edited version that leaves off the spoken word introduction), with “What Would Jesus Do.”

The song is not the normal sweet and lovely “Jesus loves me” sort of content CCM radio has been known for. But rather, the song is pointed look at the churches lack of genuine Biblical and loving response to the “least of these.” This missional (before the word existed) song features an all-star chorus at the end that is genuinely inspirational in the good sense of the word, including Phillips, Buddy Miller, Russ Taff and a host of others.

“Don’t Cry for me” returns to the more acoustic Americana rock that populates the majority of the album. Dan Posthuma’s production may get occasionally heavy-handed, as a more stark, limited and earthy arrangement would have made this song more authentic. But Posthuma is much more hands off sounding than on some of the work he did a few years previous with Phillips.

Following somewhat in the vein of “What Would Jesus Do,” is the beautiful “How Could You Say No.” A stunningly simply acoustic ballad, the song is both poignant and powerful in its sheer simple faith. When presented with the truth of what Christ suffered on your behalf, how is it possible to reject His grace?

“King of My Heart” is another less than a minute number that moves directly into the one real “rocker” on the album. The funky and rollicking “Song to the Devil” is very reminiscent of the two “Devil” songs recorded by Keith Green over a decade previously. The possibly pretentious silliness of the song is overcome by the sheer joy and humor of the performance.

The completely different “world music” rhythm of “Who Owns Your heart” is so refreshing as sounds cool 20 years later. Reminds me of some of Bruce Cockburn’s music off of “Stealing Fire.”

Live the “devil” song, “My Psychiatrist” is a humorous novelty song that wins the listener over by the sheer joy of it all. Deep within the silliness, though, is a great message.

“Love Will Find You” remains my favorite song from the album and would give the listener a glimpse at what was to come from the artist. The light country/folk of the melody belies a deeper thought process within its message. Also, the song really shows Miller the singer and how she sounds harmonizing with Buddy. Really a pretty song that should and could have been a country hit in the right circumstance.

The darkest and most moving song on the album may be the abortion themed “Dangerous Place.” Here the womb is described as a dangerous place to many an unborn child. Melodically, the song is the darkest and most difficult. The fading refrain of “Jesus Loves Me” sung by a children’s choir at the songs close is quite moving.

The album closes with the traditional, “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus.” This simple reworking of the classic Gospel tune is a fitting finale to this amazing project that throughout tips its cap to the traditional music of Gospel while looking to the future of great artistic folk and rock music in Miller’s career.

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  1. Shawn McLaughlin
    April 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Oh….I can’t EVEN be rational or unbiased when it comes to Julie Miller and her ultra cool husband, Buddy. I literally cried, at a table at Wendy’s, when I heard the first bright, ringing guitar chords of “You Knew the Way to My Heart.” I was on my lunch break from The Good News bookstore, where I was the music buyer in 1990. The album had just came in and my Sales rep did not have a sample when he sold it through to me a month earlier. Anyway, Yeah……as far as Julie goes….”every little thing she do is magic”….that woman is completely enchanting in the best way possible and has a remarkable gift for identifying hope amidst the most harrowing of circumstances. I probably like this better than album # 2 (won’t spoil it) though that record has stronger songs…..just went in a poppier direction. Even with the production – and you are right about how Posthuma (which means “after death”)lets up a lot here in relation to his other work – you can hear the nascent strains of Buddy’s signature guitar sound and genius for arrangement. Julie’s songwriting has always been strong but it just seems to get better.

  2. Tim
    April 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    The song “How Could You Say No” was actually written way back in 1981, 9 years before this album was released. Mickey Cates wrote the wonderful song, and Billy Sprague was, I believe, the first to record the song on his album “What A Way To Go” back in 1984, a full 6 years before Julie Miller recorded it. That song was always one of my favorite, as is Miller’s fantastic “What Would Jesus Do”. My guess is that Sprague will not have an album make this list, as most of his albums were not filled with great songs from beginning to end, though most of Sprague’s albums do have an occasional great, memorable song. Sprague did have one (almost) great album called “The Wind & The Wave” written after he his fiance died. It’s a very moving album.

    • low5point
      April 19, 2011 at 8:52 pm

      I originally had planned to mention “How Could You Say No” being included on a project called Streetlight back in 1983 with members Julie and Buddy Miller

      • Tim
        December 14, 2011 at 6:40 pm

        So, I found out that Craig Smith originally recorded “How Could You Say No” way back in 1981 on his album Maker. I picked up the album recently and was surprised to find this song on it. I thought there was no way it could be the same song, but indeed it is! So that beats the Streetlight version by 2 years. Interesting. Thought you would want to know.

  3. don
    April 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    any new entries soon? Not to rush you, but I am looking forward to 70’s so to speak!

  4. Tim
    April 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    So Julie Miller was first with the song. Wow! I had no idea.

  5. shawnuel
    April 20, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Actually, I think Mickey Cates was part of the Candle/Agape Force ministry that Buddy and Julie were a part of when they lived in Tacoma/Seattle.

    Tim, I so totally agree with you on “The Wind and the Wave” except I think it is a terrific and emotional album from start to finish. I continue to wonder how a writer/artist as accomplished as Billy Sprague can be so obscure to the Christian audience.

  6. Brian
    May 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Sorry, not a Julie Miller fan, even though How Can You Say No was an awesome song.
    My only complaint here is how did this get rated above SCB?

    I know…I know…it is not my list….

    Really just not a Julie Miller fan.

  7. June 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I just bought this album few days ago, much because of this desciption…or should I call it a review. It is a great album. Thanks for taking it on this list.

    • shawnuel
      June 15, 2011 at 5:52 pm

      Did you find it for an even close to reasonable price? if so, where? In which form (CD, mp3, vinyl) did you purchase it? Inquiring minds want to know!

      • June 15, 2011 at 6:16 pm

        It was 9.75 US$ + postage (6.49 $ to Finland) in Amazon.com when I bought it from a marketseller. It was CD because I don’t own a vinyl player. I think it was a reasonable price. However, I also bough other Julie Miller albums from Amazon UK (“He Walks Through Walls” and “Orphans And Angels”) because they were there a little bit cheaper. Well, at least “Orphans And Angels”.

  8. shawnuel
    June 15, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    Oh,,, that is VERY reasonable. ebay and other places have those records from $20-40 usually. Thanks for the info!

  9. November 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Just realized that “Broken Things” which I consider Julie’s masterpiece, didn’t make the countdown at all. Ah, well……to each his own.

  10. Greenchili
    January 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Tim :The song “How Could You Say No” was actually written way back in 1981, 9 years before this album was released. Mickey Cates wrote the wonderful song, and Billy Sprague was, I believe, the first to record the song on his album “What A Way To Go” back in 1984, a full 6 years before Julie Miller recorded it. That song was always one of my favorite, as is Miller’s fantastic “What Would Jesus Do”. My guess is that Sprague will not have an album make this list, as most of his albums were not filled with great songs from beginning to end, though most of Sprague’s albums do have an occasional great, memorable song. Sprague did have one (almost) great album called “The Wind & The Wave” written after he his fiance died. It’s a very moving album.

    I got the impression that the death occured sometime while he was recording “Torn Between Two Worlds” and when you listen to the album the songs truly seem to be truly “Torn Between Two Worlds” with some very upbeat songs intermixed with songs that seem related to her death.

    • Shawn McLaughlin
      January 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm

      Yes……Torn Between Two Worlds was released right after his fiance died and the struggle with his circumstance is certainly reflected throughout the album, including the project’s title.

  11. Greenchili
    January 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

    shawnuel :Actually, I think Mickey Cates was part of the Candle/Agape Force ministry that Buddy and Julie were a part of when they lived in Tacoma/Seattle.
    Tim, I so totally agree with you on “The Wind and the Wave” except I think it is a terrific and emotional album from start to finish. I continue to wonder how a writer/artist as accomplished as Billy Sprague can be so obscure to the Christian audience.

    I remember Billy Sprague opening for Michael W. Smith during his Big Picture Tour which my brother went to with me. My brother was like “who is that guy, I kinda like him”.

  12. y2daddy
    February 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Umm… are you kidding? Hated this album when I first heard it. In fact, when I first heard Blue Pony I couldn’t believe it was the same Julie Miller. So I went back and gave this album another try. Sorry, just can’t deal with it.

  13. June 20, 2013 at 11:33 am

    how do I contact Julie to get permission to sing what would Jesus do? I’m just a local talent but our family would like to put it n a family. CD

  14. July 20, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Is there any way to contact Julie Miller? I used to have her address and we wrote back and forth a while and we somehow lost contact. I’ve searched high and low and now I can’t find her at all. My email is itsreallycheryl@hotmail.com Thank you. Blessings. Cheryl

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