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Jim Lauderdale

Whispers – 1998 (BNA)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Jim Lauderdale

Life isn't like the movies, unfortunately, and the good guy doesn't always get the girl. In this case, though, Lauderdale has gotten his "girl" (in this case a major label record contract) and the result is an album of smart, confident songwriting that doesn't turn it's back on traditional country yet still comes across as being contemporary enough to end up on the playlists of far-sighted country radio stations everywhere.

Indeed, in a better world the album's catchy opening track "Goodbye Song" (co-written by Lauderdale and the legendary Harlan Howard) would be a staple of country playlists, as would "She Used to Say That to Me," featuring particularly noteworthy steel guitar work from Robby Turner. "I'll Lead You Home," a fine bluegrass collaboration with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, finishes the album on a high (or is that high lonesome?) note.

Whether country radio jumps at the opportunity to add a quality piece of work to playlists is probably doubtful, sadly. Lauderdale is probably just a little too outside the mainstream for that to be very likely, in spite of his music's commercial appeal. Listeners looking for a modern country album not wallowing in shallow platitudes and worn-out cliches, however, should start right here.