The Majestic Silver Strings 
New West Records

The steel guitar has a natural ache in its tone, an otherworldly quality, like the sound of a widow’s sorrow or a whispering wind. And Greg Leisz is one of the best at painting ethereal landscapes with its silver strings. Buddy Miller wisely puts Leisz’s elegant steel in the forefront throughout The Majestic Silver Strings, the name of both his new album and the band on it, which also includes fellow guitarist/vocalist Marc Ribot and six-stringer Bill Frisell. Accompanied by bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose, and an A-list cast of guest singers, Miller meanders through a mix of original and familiar-yet-reinvented tunes, including old westerns like “Cattle Call” and “Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.” As sung by Chocolate Genius, the Roger Miller (no relation) hit “Dang Me” shape-shifts into a folk lament; Miller’s version of George Jones’ “Why Baby Why” twangs; and the instrumental “Freight Train” strides, rather than chugs. Shawn Colvin’s beautiful “That’s the Way Love Goes” is a centerpiece; Lee Ann Womack’s renditions of “Meds” and “Return to Me” are revelations. Patty Griffin and Ann McCrary (of the McCrary Sisters), each share sublime duets with Miller, but he saves his favorite go-to girl for last — Miller and his wife, Julie, share vocals on her composition with Frisell, “God’s Wing’ed Horse.” It’s heaven. — LYNNE MARGOLIS