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Jim Lauderdale and Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys

The Hummingbirds, Lost In The Lonesome Pines – 2002 (Dualtone)

Reviewed by Bill Silvers

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CDs by Jim Lauderdale and Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys

Jim Lauderdale is an unusually prolific artist, but he's outdone himself with the simultaneous release of two new records. What's more, Lauderdale has managed to match the high standard of last year's fine "The Other Sessions" with both releases, reaching creative heights to compare with his best work.

"Lost In The Lonesome Pines" supasses the high standard set by his previous record with Stanley et al's "I Feel Like Singing Today," (1999) adding a measure of fun with the top-notch singing and musicianship. All but one of the 14 songs are written or co-written by Lauderdale, and he easily matches his style to the music.The title track showcases the divine mix of Lauderdale and Stanley's soulful voices, and The Clinch Mountain Boys are strong throughout. "Quit That" is a playful showcase for the band's soloists, with "I Should Have Listened To Good Advice" and the opening "Deep Well Of Sadness" other notable high points.

As worthwhile as the return to bluegrass is for Lauderdale, the knockout is delivered by "The Hummingbirds," his most consistently satisfying record since "Pretty Close To The Truth." Recorded before "The Other Sessions," but held aside for later release, "The Hummingbirds" doesn't break any new ground for Lauderdale - it's the eclectic mix of pop, folk and country that has formed the basis of his sound on most of his solo work, but he's never sounded more confident or demonstrated better mastery of his craft. "There And Back Again," with its sweet steel and stinging electric guitar, or "I Know Better Now," demonstrating why Lauderdale is in such demand as a songwriter for other performers, are just two of the many standouts here. Few artists will produce even one record as good as either of these records this year.