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With the best delayed plans, Jim Lauderdale hums along with two new discs

By Jon Weisberger, May 2002

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Not surprisingly, given his way of writing and the convenience of recording in Nashville, many of the songs on "The Hummingbirds" were started in the studio before they took their final shape.

"Sometimes I will record tracks, and I can't finish the lyrics, but I hear all the music, all the solos and so on," Lauderdale says. "There's a couple of things on there with Roy Huskey playing bass, and Roy passed away a few years ago. He was such an immense talent and such a wonderful guy that it's just real meaningful for me to be able to put out stuff so people can hear him. I guess I hadn't finished the lyrics when we did the tracks - well, one of them, 'Let's Not Say It's Over,' I had finished that, but I changed it a little bit later. And then 'Midnight Will Become Day,' is another example. I had the whole track done and I had no idea what it was going to be about. But I knew I wanted Emmylou Harris and Julie Miller to sing harmonies on it."

Covering a multitude of bases, from country and country-rock to swinging acoustic jazz and Old Time string band sounds, "The Hummingbirds" is also a reflection of Lauderdale's taste in collaborators.

"I'd always wanted to work with Tony Rice ever since I was in high school, and I finally got to do that with him. And Sam Bush. And there's an acoustic bass player, Tony Garnier, who plays with Bob Dylan - he's been with him for years as band leader. I met Tony when I was 22 and living up in New York for a while. I had always wanted to work with Tony, and then Tony's the one that turned me on to Johnny Bush. Johnny Bush was the first guy I heard do a waltz shuffle, and I had one, 'Eternal,' that I had written years ago, and I always wanted Tony to play on the recorded version of that. So that's on there, too."

"I've been working with Tim Coats, who produced the album, since about 1991 or so, and he works at Moondog Studios, where we do a lot of recording. I'm a total Luddite as far as technology goes, but Tim's a great engineer, and he's really sensitive musically He has great ideas, and when I have an idea, and he can either execute it or else go 'no, that's not gonna work.'"

"It's funny how Nashville's kind of gotten a bad name. I feel bad sometimes when you hear this kind of knocking of Nashville. I think what people are really doing is knocking maybe certain aspects of the music industry that are kind of undesirable. When I did the real traditional 'Whisper' record, it was too country for today's country programmers who make those decisions. Just a handful of people make the decisions on what you're going to hear, and a lot of times, it has nothing to do with quality or style or whatever or music. It was disappointing at the time when my stuff didn't make it to radio, but now it doesn't bother me. What people don't realize when they knock Nashville is that there are so many great people that are living here and there's such a wide variety of stuff. I'm content with where I am."

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