Over the holidays I had the chance to actually listen to some music. One of the CDs that spent a lot of time in my ears is the latest offering from Jim Lauderdale. The CD, simply titled Bluegrass, is nominated for a Grammy in the Best Bluegrass Album category. He took home a Grammy in that category in 2002 for his collaboration with Ralph Stanley on Lost in the Lonesome Pines.
The first time I remember seeing and hearing Jim was on the songwriter stage at Merlefest a couple years ago. Authentic is one of the first words that comes to mind when trying to describe his sound. Bluegrass captures that sound very well. With thirteen songs all written or co-written by Jim himself, this album showcases his songwriting talents as one would expect, but it also shows off his vocal talents as well. His singing is honest and strait forward evoking thoughts of Buck Owens at times, but uniquely Lauderdale and always enjoyable.
And the songs! This CD is a workshop for aspiring bluegrass songwriters. All thirteen songs are worth listening to, but I’ll highlight a couple of my favorites.
The kick off tune is Mighty Lonesome and Randy Kohrs’ opening dobro lick immediately makes you think of classic Flatt & Scruggs recordings. Randy also covers the tenor harmony vocals on the CD. Jim has written a masterful bluegrass song in this one. One of those bluegrass songs that is mighty lonesome, but makes you smile and tap your foot at the same time.
The third song on the disc, I’m Still Living For You, is done in what Ron Stewart once referred to as “heavy 3/4” time that sounds like something Dr. Ralph Stanley would have cut. Jim artfully builds the emotion in his voice through each verse leading into a chorus that opens with the line “How it’s turned, out by mistake. I hope this is a dream, and that soon I’ll awake.” As Jimmy Martin once said, “Now that’s lonesome!”
Other songs include hard driving bluegrass, old country ballads, and while played in a more or less strait bluegrass style, There Goes Bessie Brown would have made a great newgrass song has Sam Bush gotten ahold of it. Believe me it would be hard to choose a favorite from among the thirteen great songs on this disc. My advice? Just enjoy them all!