Every Second Counts

by Jim Lauderdale

09/05/95 Atlantic

One of Nashville’s most successful songwriters, Jim Lauderdale’s his contributions have often been the stand-out cuts on albums by George Strait, Patty Loveless, Mark Chestnutt and Vince Gill. So it’s a little surprising that country music is more a flavoring spice than the main ingredient in Lauderdale’s solo album, –Every Second Counts. The meat of Lauderdale’s third release is roots-rock in the vein of John Hiatt, Marshall Crenshaw, Nick Lowe (who co-wrote one of the songs), Lucinda Williams (whose drummer Donald Lindley is present) and Dave Alvin (whose guitarist Greg Leisz is on board). Unlike most of these roots-rockers, Lauderdale’s strength is not words but music (which is why he does so well selling songs to today’s pop-oriented country producers). Lauderdale’s lyrics are often clever but almost never deep. By contrast, his melodies are full of surprises, always taking an unexpected detour or leap, and his chord progressions always go a step or two beyond the usual. And when a thumping rock’n'roll beat puts that tunefulness in motion, the effect is irresistible. Like Oklahoma’s Leon Russell, North Carolina’s Lauderdale is a provincial hick with a Tin Pan Alley heart. Thus he’s able to bring a down-home authenticity to his songs even when he’s coming up with hooks as slick as any by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. Of course, it helps that Lauderdale possesses a strong, handsome tenor which can nail these melodies to the wall. You don’t usually expect to find a natural-born tunesmith in the scruffy quarters of literary-bohemian roots-rock, but there he is. Don’t overlook him.–Geoffrey Himes