Jim Lauderdale does double time – October 2006
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Jim Lauderdale does double time  Print

By Dan MacIntosh, October 2006

You may not recognize Jim Lauderdale's name, but you almost certainly know his songs. The ever-expanding group that has covered his tunes includes Patty Loveless, Vince Gill and George Strait.

But if a guy is this high in demand as a songwriter-for-hire, he must not have nearly enough other original material to record on his own albums, right? Apparently, such is not the case for the unusually prolific Lauderdale because he has just released two - count 'em two - new CDs simultaneously on Yep Roc. One is "Bluegrass," and the other one is "Country Super Hits, Vol. 1." In fact, he even had material leftover after he was all done with these fresh discs.

"Odie Blackman, my co-producer on the 'Country' record, and I have enough for a volume two," Lauderdale explains. "We wrote about 44 songs over the course of the year that I recorded with him. It was just kind of a matter of finding the songs that were the right fit and all that."

Not long ago, Lauderdale recorded two CDs with bluegrass great Ralph Stanley ("I Feel Like Singing Today" and "Lost in the Lonesome Pines"), so his appropriately titled "Bluegrass" CD should come as no great surprise to those already familiar with the man's work.

"Country Super Hits, Vol. 1," on the other hand, sticks with straight honky tonk country, which is another finely honed skill in Lauderdale's stylistic repertoire.

Other than their contrasting musical styles, the biggest difference between "Bluegrass" and "Country Super Hits, Vol. 1" is that while Lauderdale wrote many of the "Bluegrass" songs by himself, he collaborated with somebody on everything for "Country Super Hits, Vol. 1." Most often, he penned songs with Blackman. But he also shares credits with Leslie Satcher and Shawn Camp.

"With the 'Bluegrass' record, I like to keep myself challenged by writing solo, too," Lauderdale says. "So I have few solo songs on that record that aren't co-writes, and that usually takes me a little longer. It's a much quicker process for me to write with somebody else."

One wonders if Lauderdale, and especially his record company, might have been concerned about there being too much Lauderdale product on the market at one time.

"I was a little afraid about it," Lauderdale admits. "But I didn't see any other alternatives because I didn't put out anything last year, and I'm working on something else for next year. If I didn't put these out then...I was approached by a few different labels that just wanted to put one out. It would have kind of put me too far behind. And someday I might kick myself for that, but for now I just wanted to get both of these out and kind of get caught up."

Lauderdale contributed to Solomon Burke's recent "Nashville" release, which was produced by his old friend, Buddy Miller. These two men have often worked together on various projects over the years, and they'd one day like to work on a specific Lauderdale/Miller collaboration.

"One reason why I wanted to get both of these albums out this year is that he (Miller) and I have been talking about doing a duo album for years," Lauderdale explains. "I've got to have some space for that when that comes out as well. I usually try to have him (Miller) involved in some way on each release I do. This round, I recorded a song that we'd written together that he's recorded, called "Love In The Ruins," and put that on the 'Bluegrass' record."

With a title like "Country Super Hits, Vol. 1," this is an album name that appears to be more than a little ironic - especially when you consider that Lauderdale has never been much of hit machine with his own recordings.

"Well, maybe," Lauderdale replies. "Unfortunately, I won't get the country radio airplay myself. But if I was able to, this would have been a collection of my hits. And, perhaps, some other country artist will make hits out of some of those songs."

Although it must have been frustrating at first to see other artists taking his songs to the top of the charts, he's probably over that by now.

"I think a long time ago, I was kind of down about it, but then every time somebody would record a song, and it would do well, that really helped to ease the pain," he considers. "Then I didn't have that expectation anymore, so it didn't hurt."

"I always kind of strived to become a recording artist and had that dream from the teenage years," says the North Carolinian. "I am able to make records, so that is very fulfilling. That is kind of my creative outlet - to be able to make records. I do enjoy writing for other people and writing with other people, but it's the most fulfilling to make my own records."

Lauderdale may have come late to the recording of his own bluegrass albums, but that great traditional style was his first great musical love. Had he had his way, he would have first gained attention for his bluegrass playing.

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