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Jim Lauderdale reaches a new plateau

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2001

Jim Lauderdale certainly is experienced when it comes to record labels - like Atlantic, Warner, RCA and Rounder for starters.

But the man better known for his songwriting (just ask George Strait who has recorded 12 Lauderdale songs) than for his own career changed that route with "The Other Sessions." His latest, which maintains soulful sounding vocals amidst songs that often harken back to country of yesteryear, was put out by one of the newest Nashville labels, DualTone.

Lauderdale says the decision to go with the label that is also home to folks like Radney Foster and David Ball was a simple one.

"I had a couple of albums ready to go," says Lauderdale on his cellphone while driving back to Nashville from visiting his parents in North Carolina. "I've been so busy working on them, I hadn't had time to look around too much (at labels). Then, (DualTone was) brought to my attention."

The label was started by Scott Robinson and Dan Herrington, who worked together at Arista Austin, an Arista Nashville offspin that worked with edgier acts.

"I'd heard of Scott and Dan from the labels when they were going to go over and run a label from (former Arista head) Tim Dubois, who I have a great deal of respect for and I think is a good record man."

"Then, a friend of man said 'you know you ought to talk with these guys.' We hooked up and had a meeting. I felt there was an immediate kind of connection we had."

"It was the right time," says Lauderdale. "I had finished an album when I was over at RCA. I was kind of funding it myself. It's country, but it's a little more acoustic. There's even a swing tune I have on there with Tony Rice."

But not so fast in getting out the album.

"I played both of these albums, and Scott thought it would be time to release it. I'd been playing at the Opry more often, and that really inspired me. I love traditional country. Then I had a writing session with Leslie Satcher. I'm really really fond of her. The song 'What's On My Mind' came out."

"I just started thinking about Harlan (Howard) a lot, the Opry. After I finished this other album...I felt a need to get some more traditional country out there because in some ways it's kind of fading away."

"I had stuff in the can I did with the late Roy Huskey Jr. on upright bass. Some of that stuff will come out on subsequent albums. I have some older songs, and then some of this brand new stuff, some stuff with Melba (Montgomery). I thought 'hey, I've got a traditionally-based country album I'm real proud of."

Lauderdale was planning to call it "What's On My Mind," but Gary Allan ended up recording the song for his next album, making it dicey that Lauderdale would call his album by that name.

"I just thought what I am calling this thing? I threw around a couple of ideas. Somehow 'The Other Sessions' just popped out of my head."

Lauderdale says he attracted interest from a major label.

"One other label that was interested said we could put it out by August or September. I thought 'shoot every month is going to count because I had so much I wanted to get out. I just thought it was good to take a chance on a brand new operation."

"I thought I'm going to try this out. I've got so much stuff, maybe I can make some changes later on. It kind of seemed like one of the main reasons to get on a major label is to get on mainstream label. If this was going to happen, I think this would have happened at RCA. I think they tried and believed in me, but for numerous reasons, it didn't work out at radio. Major labels kind of need to put their priorities into acts that are happening or going to happen on radio. That's what makes it worthwhile for them."

After talking with the DualTone folks, the decision was made to launch "The Other Sessions" and hold off on the more acoustic disc.

The songwriter credits on "The Other Sessions" are pretty much a who's who of Nashville's finest: Harlan Howard, Kostas, Melba Montgomery and Satcher. Plus Texan Clay Blaker and Del Reeves on a new genre for Lauderdale, a trucking song.

Lauderdale teamed with Howard on "You'll Know When It's Right." The two met about four years ago through an A&R person at RCA, who was a good friend of Howard's. "She knew I'd been wanting to write with him. I came prepared. I had a melody that I already had demoed. If I have a melody I really like, I'll cut the melody. I'm thought I'm sitting here with the great Harlan Howard. We talked for a little while. I said, 'Let me play you this tape.' He said, 'You know what? This is going to be called 'The Goodbye Song.' He started writing it and said it needed another (line). I thought this melody is really perfect. I said, 'I don't know. You don't think it's okay the way it already is? He said, 'You need to change the melody.'"

"I said, 'I'll try it this way, but I thought it's fine the way the way it is. I went in and recut it. I thought, okay, everybody's going to see my (version) was better. When I finished it, everybody including myself liked it better the new way. He's not Harlan Howard for nothing. That's how we started off."

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