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Saturday, December 07, 2013

featuring the very best of americana, and roots music
November 30, 2013
Scott Foley

Jim Lauderdale puts out albums about as often as I have lunch.  Since his 1991 debut, I count no fewer than 25 releases, including last year's collaboration with Buddy Miller which was nominated for Album of the Year by the Americana Music Association (Lauderdale serves as the recurring host for the AMA's yearly fete).  This doesn't even include the countless collaborations and guest spots which pepper his resume.  In 2004, he began cowriting with legendary Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, a pairing that has continued over the space of several records.  Over the last two months, Lauderdale has released three distinct full-length albums, beginning in October with his most recent bluegrass collection, Old Time Angels.  Lauderdale has done bluegrass prior to this one, which finds him working alongside Randy Kohrs, Scott Vestal, Mike Compton and others.  Mere weeks later, Blue Moon Junction  appears, Lauderdale's very first all solo acoustic set of tunes cowritten with Hunter.  Both of these records are firmly within Jim Lauderdale's wheelhouse, fine recordings but stuff we've heard before.  The man is obviously a creative monster, but for me, Lauderdale's biggest challenge is that he is so often in his pocket that many of his tunes sound like so many others he's recorded.  To his immense credit, this rut is broken with the arrival of a third album that comes across like little else he has released in his busy career.  Black Roses is another batch of Hunter/Lauderdale songs, but this one is produced by North Mississippi All Star Luther Dickinson, who also contributes nasty, bluesy electric guitar throughout.  Jim Lauderdale is a lot of things, though "nasty" is probably not among those descriptors.  Black Roses backs him with a stellar band of Spooner Oldham, David Hood and a fraction of NMAS, in addition to spots by Shannon McNally, Amy Lavere, the Lucero horns and more. The revelation here is soulfulness of Lauderdale's voice, always a dependable instrument if a predictable one.   But listening to him drive "Tossing Pebbles At the Sky"  or "When Jones Came Home"  is a strong reminder of what I've tended to take for granted for so many years. 

*  Dolorean, "The Search"  Violence in the Snowy Fields  (Yep Roc, 04)
*  Amos Lee, "Chill In the Air"  Mountains of Sorrow Rivers of Song  (Blue Note, 13)
*  Elin Ruth, "Queen of Queens"  Queen of Queens & the Last Man Standing  (Divers Ave, 13)  D
*  Houndmouth, "Krampus"  From the Hills Below the City   (Rough Trade, 13)
*  Scott H Biram, "When I Die"  Nothin' But Blood  (Bloodshot, 13)  D
*  Yawpers, "Booze Me Up"  Good Songs Shitty Versions  (Self, 13)  C
*  Shovels & Rope, "Fall of Charleston"  Divided & United: Songs of the Civil War  (ATO, 13)
*  Alejandro Escovedo, "It's a Sin"  You Don't Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold  (Plowboy, 13)
*  John Doe, "Golden State"  Year In the Wilderness  (Yep Roc, 07)
*  Fruition, "Whippoorwil"  Just One of Them Nights  (Self, 13)
*  Rosanne Cash, "Feather's Not a Bird"  River & the Thread  (Blue Note, 13)  D
*  Matt the Electrician, "Under the Wire"  It's a Beacon It's a Bell  (Self, 13)
*  Drag the River, "Here's to the Losers"  Drag the River  (XL, 13) C
*  Be Good Tanyas, "Rudy"  Winter's Night  (Nettwerk, 04)
*  Cameron Milford, "Hiding in Tennessee"  Highway Wind  (Storybridge, 13)  D
*  Patterson Hood, "I Understand Now"  Murdering Oscar  (Ruth St, 09)
*  Kristina Murray, "I Can't Recall"  Unravelin'  (Self, 14)  C
*  Yarn, "Let's Get Dark"  Shine the Light On  (Self, 13)
*  Lone Justice, "This World Is Not My Home"  This is Lone Justice: Vaught Sessions  (Omnivore, 13)  D
*  Charlie Robison, "Lookout Cleveland"  High Life  (Thirty Tigers, 13)
*  Drew Kennedy, "Age and Color"  Wide Listener  (Self, 13)
*  Dave Rawlings Machine, "To Be Young (is to Be Sad, is to Be High)"  Friend of a Friend  (Acony, 09)
*  Nick Lowe, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas"  Quality Street  (Yep Roc, 13)  D
*  Green Boys, "Hard Luck Blues"  Oh Delia  (Self, 13)  D
^  Jim Lauderdale, "Land of My Dreams"  Blue Moon Junction  (Sky Crunch, 13)
*  Brandi Clark, "Crazy Women"  12 Songs  (Slate Creek, 13)  D
*  Joe Johnson, "White Port Wine"  New West Sound  (Blank Tape, 13)  C
*  John Prine, "Bruised Orange"  Anthology  (Rhino, 93)

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