Jim Lauderdale: A treasure for musicians AND music-lovers

by DGO Web Administrator

In 2014, singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale released his 26th record, titled “I’m a Song.” It’s an honest admission, although he should have owned up to being many “songs.” Productive is an understatement, as the Nashville-based songwriter has, up to this point, written thousands of tunes. He’s well known for songwriting collaborations with Robert Hunter and Buddy Miller, Ralph Stanley and Nick Lowe, yet even without those fertile partnerships, Lauderdale still ranks as one of the more prolific songwriters and performers in roots music. He’s released 27 records since 1991, including last year’s double LP “Soul Searching.” He may have taken a year off from releasing an album here or there, but made up time by putting out multiple records in the span of 12 months. In 2013, he released three. File it all under “roots,” as Lauderdale does country and bluegrass, folk, Memphis and blue-eyed soul with equal ease. Lauderdale will perform tonight (Thursday) solo at the Animas City Theatre. Opening the show is local country musician Tyller Gummersall.

While big record labels tend to continue to pump money into the same song and dance, people like Lauderdale keep working quietly, writing song after song while gaining the admiration of colleagues, contemporaries and fans who choose to side with someone who won’t be the flavor of the week.

He’s a musician who has had one foot firmly planted in the mainstream, a sought after songwriter whose words have led to hits for major league musicians. The other foot has been on the ground in independent music, allowing him freedom to play bluegrass or rock while writing with musicians known in new-wave or hippie realms.

“I had that mixture of things for a long time, since as a teenager trying to get record deals, and through and after college. I really love to do so many different kinds of music. I had a few mainstream country deals ,but I was always a little bit out of sync. I was a little bit too country or whatever and so it didn’t take off for me,” said Lauderdale. “But luckily, different people – George Straight, especially – started recording my songs, and that allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do musically.”

He’s a musician who aspiring songwriters and band leaders of any genre should look to. The guy exudes cool and grace; from the Nudie Suits to the bluegrass, soul and cosmic country, he’s so adept at writing and performing. As influential as he is, he’s still a diehard fan, taken with music now as much as he was when he first heard The Beatles. He writes with Robert Hunter, but before that, Hunter’s songs on Grateful Dead records were a soundtrack to his life. He wrote a record with Nick Lowe, but that came long after being a fan of the man who penned “(What’s So Funny) about Peace, Love and Understanding.” His air and excitement about music, whether he’s talking songwriting, collaborations with other musicians or elaborating on Grateful Dead albums released between 1970 and 1973, is infectious. He’ll make you want to sit down and listen to a bunch of records all night.

“We all have spent hours enthralled, listening to music, and it’s so important to our lives,” said Lauderdale. “We all have our individual experiences with it, and feelings it evokes, and our favorites. So I’m just a big fan of so many people, and so many influential people in my life.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].

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