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Jim Lauderdale

Bluegrass – 2006 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Jim Lauderdale

Jim Lauderdale has recorded bluegrass before, teaming with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys for two albums, but this is his first solo foray in the genre.

It sounds like he's been there all his life. He adopts a rawer singing style for the material, but his singular songwriting remains the same; lyrically, these are songs that would be at home on any Lauderdale record, even as he writes them to bluegrass forms. There are a handful of collaborations here (although fewer than on the record's country sibling), among them a couple of surprising names in Joe Henry and former Derailer Tony Villeneuva, and his teamwork with Leslie Satcher produces a couple of gems - "Who's Leavin' Who," an exercise in black humor that finds its protaganist sitting in a diner, asking "why's everybody starin' like they've never seen pajama on a fool," and "There Goes Bessie Brown," a spooky backwoods tale. The playing of the cohorts he's assembled for the record, among them Dobro master Randy Kohrs, David Talbot from The Grascals, guitar virtuoso Bryan Sutton, and Jesse Cobb from rising outfit The Stringdusters, is superb.