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Jim Lauderdale

London Southern – 2017 (Sky Crunch)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Jim Lauderdale

Like the genre, Americana, for which he is its face, Jim Lauderdale can be described as eclectic, uncategorizable and constantly searching for something different. It would be difficult to find another artist who has delivered with this, his 29th album in just a 26-year span of recording. This is his seventh in the last four years. Here, he channels the sounds of early '60s American soul music filtered through the British approach, having recorded the sessions in London with Nick Lowe's backing band and Lowe's producer Neil Brockbank along with Robert Treherne, drummer for Lowe and Van Morrison. The latter's '90s sound of "Avalon Sunset" imbues tunes like "I Love You More" and the earlier classic riffs of Morrison strain through "Different Kind of Groove." Others could seemingly fit easily into Lowe's sound.

Lauderdale loves to collaborate and this time around he writes not only with long-time cohort Odie Blackmon, but with John Oates, Kendell Marvel and soul icon Dan Penn. Lauderdale has a knack for making songwriting look easy, and nothing seems forced here with this collection he wrote while on tour in England and Scotland. He later overdubbed some selections in Nashville with additional musicians beyond Lowe's backing quartet, adding horns and background vocalists to "What Have You Got to Lose" (McCrary Sisters), "Different Kind of Groove Some Time" and "I Can't Do Without You."

Although the music has a retro feel, it doesn't feel dated as it flows rather naturally and unpretentiously. Yet a close listen brings many artists and past sounds to mind. "You Came to Get Me" reflects Stax while the Penn collaboration, "Don't Shut Me Down" might be the most country sounding tune with just a hint of Muscle Shoals. There's a touch of gospel in "What Do You Have to Lose" and even some late-night jazz riffing in "If I Can't Resist." The Searchers influence is all over "Don't Let Yourself Get in the Way" while Stones riffs color "No Right Way to Be Wrong."

"London Southern" is a cousin to the straight ahead soul of Lauderdale's Memphis double album "Soul Searching." Lauderdale's ever widening musical vocabulary leaves us wondering about his next project. Any guesses?