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Lauderdale shows you can write songs and perform them

The Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint, Medford, Mass., March 9, 2024

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

There is a reason why some songwriters have a career of only penning songs for other artists and why some – prima facie example, Jim Lauderdale – not only have had a long list of real hits for others, but manage to forge and maintain their own recording and touring careers.

The latter sentiment was on full display in Lauderdale's 90-minute set in his first visit to the Boston area in years. Really pretty much anything and everything in his hands sounded good on this night.

Not all that much has changed over time, but that's a good thing. The recorded material has continued to flow for Lauderdale, including last September's release, "The Long and Lonesome Letting Go," with bluegrass band The Po' Ramblin' Boys.

Lauderdale served up less than a handful of songs from the release (the title track was a particular standout). Since Lauderdale was playing solo acoustic and without the benefit of a backing band, the bluegrass bent was not readily obvious.

But what was clear here and really throughout the night was the elasticity of his lovely baritone, which is still very much intact. Lauderdale knew a thing or two about balancing the tempos and styles – whether picking up the pace or slowing it down a few notches.

He wove his personal history into the songs as well, recalling how he wrote "Stone Must Be the Walls" with bluegrass great Roland White when he got out of college. The song went unreleased and actually lost for years until White's wife told Lauderdale she found the recording tape at the bottom of a box.

Lauderdale also played the genial North Carolinian that he is with a bit of a corny sense of humor – but, nevertheless, you laughed along anyway.

He offered a yarn about he was on the road and had terrible trouble sleeping, unable to figure out what the problem was. He finally decided to remove some songs from the set list to see if that was what ailed him. Sure enough, Lauderdale felt great the next day after axing "Time Changes Everything."

But apparently you can't keep a good song down as Lauderdale said with his aw shucks sense of humor: "I'll tell you, I'll do it one more time."

Song well done – until the next show no doubt.

Lauderdale could do a whole show, of course, of songs he's written for others, and he played a lot of them tonight. That would include "King of Broken Hearts," a hit for George Strait, "Hole In My Head," written with Buddy Miller and a hit for the Dixie Chicks; and "Halfway Down" and "You Don't Seem to Miss Me," both hits for Patty Loveless.

While the radio hits were great in their time, Lauderdale made them sound fresh and obviously his own.

That was no surprise and underscores Lauderdale's talents. After all, it's not every songwriter who is capable of taking the stage. Yet again, however, Lauderdale showed that his writing and performing talents have always served him well.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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