Jim Lauderdale is clearly one of the most prolific and productive people in the roots music biz. Granted, that may sound like an overly bold statement, but given his tendency to release multiple albums over the course of a single year, and share his talents with any number of outside ensembles, it’s hardly an exaggeration.
Lauderdale’s latest offering from Sky Crunch Records finds him sharing equal credit with The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, an old school bluegrass ensemble that includes C.J. Lewandowski on mandolin and vocals, Laura Orshaw on fiddle and vocals, Jeremy Brown on banjo and vocals. Josh Rinkel on guitar and vocals, and Jasper Lorentzen playing bass. So too, the songs finds Lauderdale collaborating with a number of other seasoned songwriters, among them, Del McCoury, Alex Leach, Josh Rinkel, Becky Buller, Joe Newberry, and Logan Ledger. The material naturally falls entirely within bluegrass realms, marking a return to Lauderdale’s seminal style that marked his early efforts alongside the late Ralph Stanley. Clearly, he hasn’t forgotten those lessons he learned early on.
Lauderdale is an artist whose creativity flourishes through collaboration, and The Long and Lonesome Letting Go is certainly no different. As one might expect given the present participants, the music reflects sounds of a vintage variety, from the rousing title track to the bittersweet ballads that follow — She’s On a Different Train, I’m Only So Good at Being Good, and You Fell Off the Face of the Earth. Lauderdale also has a knack for injecting irony and insight into his music, and as a result, lingering laments like Ghost of a Rose, When We Were Together, and Darkness the Other Side of Light manage to resonate through both insight and instinct.
That said, the majority of these songs tend to relay rather downcast designs. Even an otherwise upbeat tune like If I Could Only Get My Heart To See indicate that the singer is in a decidedly somber state of mind. Even the band’s down-home delivery does little to alleviate that prevailing sense of sadness. Only the final tracks, the mid-tempo She’s the Light and the driving and determined, Keep the Hammer Down, seem to suggest some optimism may await.
The Long and Lonesome Letting Go constitutes another excellent addition to Lauderdale’s lengthy catalogue and continuum. It affirms the fact that he’s a true American troubadour, an artist committed to a classic motif in both sound and theory. Hopefully that’s something he’ll never let go of or dispense with entirely.