Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
or the uninitiated, Jim Lauderdale may have seemed like a huge name dropper.
When you casually mention how you have worked with Ralph Stanley, Solomon Burke, Buddy Miller, Nick Lowe, Robert Hunter, the North Mississippi All Stars and Elvis Costello and have a radio show on Sirius/XM satellite radio during a concert, one may liken it to Lauderdale showing up for a job interview and trying too darn hard to impress his potential employer.
No such misfortune. The reality was quite the opposite as the always affable, low ego, but even more importantly expressive singer and songwriter, delved into a variety of musical styles during almost two hours onstage. And Lauderdale would have been just as fine had he not mentioned any of his friends even once.
Chances are most of the crowd came already impressed by Lauderdale's considerable skills, even though he is under the radar in the grand scheme of country music. That is less so for the Americana crowd wherein his audience tends to lie. In fact, along with Miller, Lauderdale has hosted the Americana awards show in Nashville for a number of years.
As for the various names, fact was that that determined where the show headed. For example, the songs with Miller ("Hole in My Head") had an edgier, more guitar-centered orientation (Lauderdale played acoustic guitar only).
"Lost in the Lonesome Pines," from a recording Lauderdale did with Ralph Stanley, sounded was what you might expect from Stanley - slower, musically simple and less forceful, but done quite well. Lauderdale gave an occasional comment about some of those he worked with saying "I wanted to sing and play like Ralph Stanley" as a teen.
The Hunter material - he has written songs for The Grateful Dead - were of the bluegrass ilk.
The North Mississippi All-Stars songs tended to be on the heavier side musically with a denser, bluesier sound.
Certainly in the cases of Lowe, Costello and Miller, one could easily hear them taking lead vocals. That also showed the vocal dexterity of Lauderdale because he ceded ground to none of them. Not even when he sang both "Halfway Down" and "You Don't Seem to Miss Me," both big hits for Patty Loveless.
Often singing with a drawl, Lauderdale could toughen up the songs with a bit of grit or achieve a heightened sense of emotion. Lauderdale was comfortable in a plenitude of styles without coming off like a musical chameleon still searching in vain for his inner voice.
One could justifiably argue that the forays into different styles and tempos made the show even more enjoyable because doing so showcased what a musical master Lauderdale remains.
He also is a highly prolific one, having released three albums in 2013, 1 last year, another 1 coming later this month and 1 more in the spring of 2016.
There are many tastes and flavors to Jim Lauderdale. He doesn't need to mention other artists - in fact, he never even said that he'd written a passel of songs for George Strait - to state his case. His writing, singing and playing do it for him even better.