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Country Super Hits Vol. 1

by Jim Lauderdale

9/16/06 Yep Roc

With his soulful drawl and knack for writing material suitable for some of the biggest artists in mainstream country (George Strait, Patty Loveless, and the Dixie Chicks among them), it’s hard to understand why Jim Lauderdale remains on the alternative fringe as a recording artist. Yet his indie status gives him the freedom to make the music he wants, such as this album of new originals steeped in the sound of classic country (released simultaneously with Bluegrass, an album that showcases a different dimension of Lauderdale’s artistry). As with the country hits of the era he conjures, Lauderdale isn’t concerned when clever slides toward corny, as it does in the “genie in the bottle” lyric of “Two Wishes,” and he isn’t afraid of sweet innocence (“If You Never Seen Her Smile”) and disarming tenderness (“Are You Okay”). The balladry of “That’s Why We’re Here” represents Lauderdale at his open-hearted best. On the harder, honky-tonk side, there’s plenty of Buck Owens twang in “Single Standard Time” and “You Can’t Stop Her.” As for the surreal “I Met Jesus in a Bar,” it’s hard to tell whether this is a homage to a certain type of drinking song or an affectionate send-up. No matter. If Lauderdale isn’t likely to enjoy any “super country hits” with this material, other artists should. –Don McLeese