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Jim Lauderdale

Old Time Angels – 2013 (Sky Crunch)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Jim Lauderdale

Jim Lauderdale's "Old Time Angels" was the first of three albums the Americana hero released in late 2013. A bluegrass album and Lauderdale's eighth such, this generous collection features a core band playing around mics in the style many believe best captures the bluegrass ethos- live takes, free of overdubs or studio manipulation.

"Old Time Angels" is comprised of energetic performances by musicians and singers who fully understand how to present a palatable, contemporary interpretation of acoustic bluegrass. Producer and resophonic guitar whiz Randy Kohrs again ensures a lively sound that fully embraces Lauderdale's expressive vocal creativity. As do masters of bluegrass, Lauderdale twists his lyrical delivery, drawing out syllables to emphasize an element, extend a rhyme, or match a beat.

Lauderdale's songs capture country poetry that brings to mind no one more than Harlan Howard: "I wish you would Tell Me What I Mean," "running fast but Losing Ground, and I've Been A Fool One Time Before are but three examples of quality wordsmithery. The album's finest song is possibly I Might Seem Like a Loser (But I'm Really Not), as strong a slice of self-deception as has recently been recorded, while the instrumentally astounding title track is just short of classic, as a passel of mountain girls are given opportunity for vengeance. Jimmy Martin should have had a chance to record Hold On Honey Hold On.

Featuring bluegrass A-Listers Mike Compton (mandolin and baritone harmony), Scott Vestal (banjo), and Kohrs (who also sings tenor), as well as versatile Nashville session fiddler Billy Contreras and long-time Lauderdale collaborator Jay Weaver (bass), the core instrumental foundation is beyond solid.

"Old Time Angels" is no uni-dimensional representation of bluegrass. Wild Blue Yonder, I Don't Want To Be A Sinner Anymore, and Just Say You Want Me Around each explore different facets of the music, and yet remain conducive to the creation of Lauderdale's integrated palate of acoustic bluegrass sound.