It seems fitting that Rodney Crowell helped produce this debut album, for in Jim Lauderdale he has found a kindred spirit: a natural-born songwriter who has wrapped his country roots around a rock & roll heart. Lauderdale, however, shows more range than Crowell; on Planet of Love he segues from the slow-burn blues of “Wake Up Screaming” to the spirited rockabilly of “Where the Sidewalk Ends” to the drawn-out swing of the title cut to the chugging swamp rock of “What You Don’t Know.” In most artists, such diversity is the mark of a dilettante. But Lauderdale embraces every idiom as if it were his one true love.
Lauderdale’s voice is a full-bodied, nofrills tenor that comes across just as his lyrics do: Both are simple and direct, with surprising, subtle resonances. Together they form the thread that unifies these tracks. But the sound that makes them an album is largely the work of John Leventhal. Not only did Leventhal coproduce with Crowell, he also co-wrote several of the songs. In addition, he’s practically a one-man band, playing guitars on every cut and either keyboards or bass on most. He and Crowell have brought in some impressive sidepersons – including Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin on vocals – but they’re really just along for the ride. Leventhal, on the other hand, is the driving force. He and Lauderdale make a singular team – as long as they endure, so should the music.
MICHAEL SAUTER, Rolling Stone