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Jim Lauderdale

Onward Through It All – 1999 (RCA)

Reviewed by Holly Gleason

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CDs by Jim Lauderdale

Jim Lauderdale has long been a standard bearer for the future of Bakersfield's legacy. A songwriter who's supplied tradition-steeped hits for George Strait, Patty Loveless and Mark Chesnutt, the North Carolina-born artist knows one can stretch the limits of hardcore country if one isn't ashamed of the roots - the aching steel, the raucous shuffles, the weepy fiddles and pained ballads - with an infusion of verve, passion and experimentation.

Using slightly attenuated lyric lines, Lauderdale's songs have an offbeat characteristic that catches your ear - whether it's the bouncing norteno-country of "Please Be San Antone" or the ardent pledge of knowing someone long before the introduction of "I've Already Loved You" - and a delivery that offers the ease of conversation. For Lauderdale, songs are two-way communication, whether the dialogue is real time or not.

Working with co-producer Tim Coats, there are no rules, except an easy-going musical interaction that underscores the songs' intentions. At times, the twang is turned up, at others, it's merely subliminal; but always his heart's on his sleeve and there's a song on his lips that make all the world a whole lot more like Bakersfield.