Jim Lauderdale frequently embraces bluegrass. As a collaborating artist, Lauderdale has released albums with Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Donna the Buffalo and Roland White as well as a couple adjacently identified as 'bluegrass songs' with Robert Hunter. He has also released solo bluegrass albums and produced artists including The Alex Leach Band and Jack Cooke.
The Po' Ramblin' Boys are bluegrass, arguably the finest traditional-based, contemporary bluegrass band touring and recording. The five-piece band is stout, and the addition of fiddler Laura Orshaw solidified the group as a dramatic, musically dynamic outfit.
The 'Jim Lauderdale Cadence' — an individual singing style — isn't typical within bluegrass, but he makes it work. A rock-solid bluegrass band can make just about anything pleasing within the genre, and The Po' Ramblin' Boys are suitable stylistic foils for Lauderdale.
As Lauderdale bends notes at the end of lines within "She's on A Different Train," (a Leach-Jon Weisgarber-Lauderdale co-write) positive regard for the prolific artist grows. "When We Were Together" allows Lauderdale to make vocal-eye contact with listeners: you can't help but keenly listen to this hopeful, regret-filled stunner.
Del McCoury drops in to sing the title number with Lauderdale, with no fault to be found. Another standout number is guitarist Josh Rinkel and Lauderdale's "I'm Only So Good," a drinking duet with Orshaw joining on an aching chorus concluding, "at being good." Six of the included songs are Rinkel/Lauderdale co-writes, with "The Face of the Earth," featuring outstanding instrumentation from mandolinist C. J. Lewandowski and invigorating bass notes from Jasper Lorentzen, the Martinesque, good 'n country bluegrass of "If I Could Only Get My Heart to See" and the kickin' Stanley-school "Drop the Hammer Down" notable.
The old-time, country-sounding "Ghost of a Rose" (from Lauderdale and Jimmy Ritchey) providing banjoist Jereme Brown opportunity to place tasteful notes.
Co-producing together, the creative entities demonstrate that successful collaborations must be executed with respect for each other's abilities, perspectives and talents. Apparent throughout the album, the ideal qualities of this alliance may be best heard within the uplifting "She's The Light," another Rinkel/Lauderdale song. Harmony vocals provide depth to Lauderdale's sweeping leads, while the instrumental backing is perfection.
Lauderdale is an Americana icon who knows bluegrass. The Po' Ramblin' Boys are becoming bluegrass stars presenting the music better than most. Together, they are staggering.