For those who have never experienced the joys of the seagoing music festival that is called Cayamo, suffice it to say it ought not be missed. Boasting a veritable who’s who of Americana icons — John Prine, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, and Lucinda Williams being but a fraction of the major names involved — it’s a remarkable treat for anyone whose love of music borders on obsession. The grand master of these festivities, the so-called King of Cayamo, is none other than Buddy Miller, whose role as master of ceremonies with both solo sets and steadfast support for the other headliners finds him a constant onstage onboard presence from beginning to end.
With that in mind Cayamo Sessions at Sea seems well overdue. Yet given that there are only eleven of the dozens — if not hundreds — of performances that Miller’s shared over the years, it seems somewhat scant as well. Still, who are we to complain? It’s an outstanding example of what makes Cayamo so special… the perfect souvenir for those who have sailed it and an ideal introduction for those that haven’t. The set list is mostly familiar — Lee Ann Womack’s take on “After the Fire Is Gone,” Kris Kristofferson reclaiming his classic “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Shawn Colvin offering up “Wild Horse” and Brandi Carlisle and The Lone Bellow sharing the spotlight on “Angel from Montgomery” — but then part of the joy is in the rediscovery. The only disappointment — if there is one — is Lucinda Williams’ haggard take on “Hickory Wind,” her weary vocal turning the song’s reflection into remorse while abandoning the song’s feeling of longing and nostalgia in the process.
In sum, Cayamo Sessions at Sea is a real treasure, an opportunity to witness rare collaborations that mostly can’t be found elsewhere. Yeah, maybe you need to be there, but as an alternative option, this ain’t half bad.