Throughout his career, celebrated songwriter and roots musician Jim Lauderdale has danced between genres, releasing albums which touch on Americana, country, and bluegrass. For his latest release, Carolina Moonrise, he has turned once again to bluegrass, providing listeners with a thirteen song collection of country-tinged originals.
All of the songs included are collaborative efforts between Lauderdale and frequent writing partner Robert Hunter (lyricist for much of the Grateful Dead’s work). The songs hit on many of the traditional bluegrass themes (love, heartbreak, wandering, etc.) and feature great imagery and nice wordplay. One of the most clever lyrical tricks is found is the first track and lead single, Iodine. Lauderdale and Hunter play off both the healing properties and pain that comes from the application of iodine, to describe the love of the singer’s life. The song’s urgent pace fits the lyrics well.
Triple Crossroad Blues comes next, keeping up with the hurried pace and sharing a unique twist on the old story of selling your soul to the devil. The repeated line “get on board,” and the pulsing rhythm of the chorus, help listeners imagine a train that’s headed “to the end of the line.” Things slow down a bit for the rest of the album, with songs like Troublemaker, a swingy tune with a Texas feel, and Anybody’s Guess, a heartfelt song which features the singer pledging his love “forever, and not one second less.”
On the Level is a standout song, with its tale of two lovers who are “tired, so tired of lying” to each other as their love grows cold. Tim Crouch’s fiddle and Randy Kohrs’ resonator guitar fit perfectly together to convey the song’s lonesome feel. I Won’t Let it Show is another nice heartbreak song, this time in the form of an upbeat, straight ahead bluegrass tune with the singer declaring his pride will help keep his pain inside.
Even though this album isn’t strictly bluegrass, Lauderdale gives tribute to some of the musicians who have left a lasting mark on the genre (as well as those who have helped shaped other traditional genres). Fiddler’s Heaven name-drops everyone from Charlie Bowman to Kenny Baker to Vassar Clements, and features a breakdown with six guest fiddlers as the tune comes to an end.
Lauderdale has brought together some of bluegrass music’s finest musicians to accompany him on this project. Sidemen include Aaron Ramsey (mandolin), Jay Weaver (bass), Scott Vestal (banjo), Tim Crouch (fiddle), Josh Williams (guitar), and Randy Kohrs (resonator guitar). They switch easily between sounds, incorporating contemporary bluegrass, bluesy grooves, and country, and providing solid rhythm to back Lauderdale’s edge-of-country-style lead vocals.
For more information on Jim Lauderdale and his new album, visit his website at www.jimlauderdale.com.
Carolina Moonrise is out now from Sky Crunch Records and can be purchased from various music retailers.