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Various Artists

A Tribute to John D. Loudermilk – 2017 (BFD)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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Unless you're a music historian or someone who tends to peruse the credits of album sleeves - the few there are these days - it's likely that the name John D Loudermilk might not mean much to you. However those who have followed the trajectory of modern music over the past fifty years or so are probably aware of Loudermilk's reputation as one of the great songwriters of his generation, a man whose music transcended genres and provided a cache of material for artists on both sides of the rock and country and divide.

Considering the level of respect with which he's held by those in the know, this star-studded tribute to Loudermilk, which took place at the Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tennessee just a few months prior to his passing, seems long overdue. Nevertheless, as a testament to his talent and a reminder of the timeless tunes that fill out his repertoire, it serves its purpose. Emmylou Harris, Roseanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Herb Pedersen, Cory Chisel, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Ricky Skaggs and Beth Nielsen Chapman are among the many paying their respects in song, offering a generous 24 tracks in total. While not all the selections are readily familiar, several are in fact standards. Indeed, the inclusion of the venerable "Tobacco Road," popular hits "Break My Mind," "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" and "Indian Reservation," the latter best remembered as a chartbuster by Paul Revere and the Raiders, testify to Loudermilk's lingering legacy.

Not surprisingly, the mood is consistently upbeat throughout, and the silken harmonies provided by Emmylou Harris, Mary Ann Kennedy and Pam Rose on "Where Have They Gone," along with the bluegrass influence Herb Pedersen, Skaggs, and Lawson infuse in "It's My Time," "Waterloo" and "Blue Train," respectively, ensure that the music retains its contemporary trappings. This, then, is the ideal tribute, one that brings the recipient's storied legacy to the forefront where it belongs.