In promoting "I'm a Song," Jim Lauderdale put out a satirical video with his band in which he dons a trucker's cap and celebrates the creation of "bro-grass." The good-natured video served to show how Lauderdale doesn't fit in with what's most popular in Nashville these days, but listen to his latest - a wonderful, 20-song album - and you know the in-demand songwriter certainly can't be that unpopular. Lauderdale had a hand in writing each song here (his co-writers include Elvis Costello, Robert Hunter, Odie Blackmon, Bobby Bare and John Oates), and every listen reveals another impressive song.
"Hello, my name is Mr. Sunshine," he sings on the leadoff track, "Let's Have a Good Thing Together," a stomping honky-tonk number that has Lauderdale conjuring his inner Buck. The fun continues on the swaggering, low-down "Past It," which promotes floor-rolling as a method to overcome rough patches. More reflective songs such as "The Feeling's Hanging On," the slow-burning "The Day the Devil Changed," (one of several songs featuring the great James Burton on guitar) and the title track are equally engaging, and show Lauderdale's excellent versatility as a songwriter and singer. Guest vocalists include Lee Ann Womack ("Doin' Time in Bakersfield" and "A Day With No Tomorrow"), Patty Loveless ("Today I've Got the Yesterdays") and, best of all, Buddy Miller on "I Lost You," an Elvis Costello co-write.
"Makin' Honey" is another standout, with a chorus that sort of recalls Wanda Jackson's immortal "Funnel of Love," and the jazzy "Let Him Come to You," which features co-writer Oates on acoustic guitar. Lauderdale is in fine voice for his reprisal of "The King of Broken Hearts," a tribute to Gram Parsons and George Jones (and also the name of a documentary about Lauderdale) that also has been recorded by George Strait and Lee Ann Womack. The defiant, album-ending "We Will Rock Again" takes Lauderdale out on the same rowdy note on which he began.