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Jim Lauderdale, Donna The Buffalo Mix Styles in New CD  <i>Wait 'Til Spring</i> - 2003-07-23

It's difficult to categorize musicians like Jim Lauderdale. In recent years, the Grammy winner has been called "country." But that is really just a convenient label rather than a description of the roots music he's been recording. After all, country music singers don't usually associate with jam bands like Donna The Buffalo. But Lauderdale considers his music country with rock, soul and blues influences, and it meshes well with Donna The Buffalo's blend of rock, Cajun and zydeco stylings.

Combining a Nashville hit songwriter with a band of hippies that have more in common with The Grateful Dead than Tim McGraw doesn't sound like a winning combination. But Wait 'Til Spring works, with Jim Lauderdale's lead vocals and lyrics bringing out the best in Donna The Buffalo, a six-piece band playing an arsenal of instruments including electric guitars, accordions, washboards, fiddles and keyboards.

Despite that musical flexibility, Donna The Buffalo is a group known for making good music, while not always sounding focused playing it. But on this recording, produced by Lauderdale and his longtime producer Tim Coats, Donna The Buffalo has been herded into tight arrangements, and aren't simply wandering across a musical plain.

Highlights on Wait 'Til Spring include Slow Motion Trouble, featuring Lauderdale's growling vocals on top of a groove that's both bluesy and Cajun.

Although all the songs on Wait Til Spring are Jim Lauderdale originals, one track should be familiar to longtime fans. That's Not The Way It Works first appeared on Jim's 1995 release, Every Second Counts, with a completely different arrangement. The new version has a very 60s feel to it, with soaring harmonies and jangling guitars reminiscent of the Byrds.

While Wait 'Til Spring is another superior album from Jim Lauderdale, the musical style-mixing idea behind it may scare away those who are hesitant to check out unfamiliar music that can't be described by using one word like "country," or "rock, or "folk." But adventurous listeners, along with fans of contemporary singer-songwriters like Tim O'Brien and John Hiatt and eclectic bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish should be pleased with this CD.