Ask a singer-songwriter about the toughest part of the job, and most will reply "coming up with a song." Due to the difficulty in writing or finding strong material, it's not unusual for two years to pass between album releases. That does not seem to be true in the case of Jim Lauderdale. The Nashville-based entertainer released two CDs of original material on the same day, and one of those albums has been nominated for a Grammy award.
While you may not recognize his name, Jim Lauderdale is one of the best-selling songwriters in Nashville.
Those hits he's written for artists George Strait, Patty Loveless and The Dixie Chicks have financed his own 11-CD recording career.
His two most recent releases, a solo project titled The Hummingbirds, and Lost in the Lonesome Pines, his second Grammy-nominated collaboration with bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley, show Lauderdale's ability at just about every type of country music from bluegrass to the Bakersfield Sound.
The Hummingbirds is the more modern-sounding of the two, showcasing Lauderdale's usual mastery of melodies and smart lyrics. The optimistic Midnight Will Become Day, opens the album and features harmonies from Emmylou Harris and Julie Miller.
One song on the CD is a departure from that country-tinged sound. Although unexpected, Jim Lauderdale says the song basically wrote itself in that style. It was no problem for him to find the right musicians to play on the track, either.
"This is just one song that came out in one fell swoop [all at once] one night," says Lauderdale. "It's kind of a departure for me. It's called 'It's A Trap' and I've never really done a swing-type song like that." "I'd wanted to work with Tony Rice for a long while," he continues. "He's a great acoustic guitar player. And Sam Bush, the great mandolin player, and Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and a friend of mine named Tony Garnier on acoustic bass. Tony was the original bass player for Asleep At The Wheel."
On the same day The Hummingbirds was released, Lost In The Lonesome Pines made its debut. This is the second collaboration between Jim Lauderdale and Ralph Stanley, and like the first, it has been nominated for the Bluegrass Album of the Year Grammy. Not bad for a recording that had a bit of a rough birth. The songs usually come first, before the producer sets up the recording sessions and brings in the band. Not so with Lost In The Lonesome Pines, which was also produced by Jim Lauderdale. "I'd go in the studio and just have some melodies and titles and a vague idea of what the song would be about," laughs Lauderdale. " And I'd just have to go in another room and stall them. Or send them to lunch, or whatever. You know, I'd keep thinking 'OK, I'll do this the night before.' Or 'I'm too sleepy tonight, I can't do this. I'll get up really early, I just can't write anymore. It's not coming out.' " Despite its unusual beginning, Lost In The Lonesome Pines is an album worthy of its Grammy nomination. It showcases Jim Lauderdale's ability to come up with songs like Quit That, tunes that sound more like they were recently-rediscovered, than recently-written.