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The Bluegrass Diaries

by Jim Lauderdale

9/18/07 Yep Roc


To Nashville’s way of thinking, Jim Lauderdale is a sturdy wild onion, sprouting in a bed of safe petunias. Since the early ’90s, when his eccentric songs provided hits for such mainstream royalty as George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, and George Jones, he has been revered as a songwriter, even as his own albums were too left-field for commercial success. Undaunted, the North Carolina native simply dedicated himself to making the best music he could, category be damned. One Grammy win later (for his collaboration with Ralph Stanley, Lost in the Lonesome Pines), he’s still pursuing the high-lonesome heritage that he framed so rightly on the Grammy-nominated Bluegrass (2006). Now The Bluegrass Diaries, the first of three albums to be released over nine months (the others find him paired with guitar god James Burton and with the Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter), again finds him forging his trademark quirky melodies, and moaning, leaping, bending, and stuttering his aching mountain tenor into an intoxicating vocal confession. Joined by singer/guitarist Shawn Camp on their own “Looking for a Good Place to Land” and Cia Cherryholmes on “I Wanted to Believe” (as well as a cache of lightning-fast pickers led by producer Randy Kohrs), Lauderdale hews out another memorable collection of hangdog songs of miserable love (“I Wanted to Believe”), gospel redemption (“Can We Find Forgiveness”), and wry situational experience (“One Blue Mule”). Don’t miss the fiery instrumental coda on the album’s closer, “Ain’t No Way to Run,” written by the unlikely team of Melba Montgomery, J.D. Souther, and Lauderdale himself. –Alanna Nash