Music Review: Jim Lauderdale gets rootsy on double album

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Jim Lauderdale, "Soul Searching: Vol. 1 Memphis/Vol. 2. Nashville" (Sky Crunch)

Jim Lauderdale's "Hee-Haw" humor and sycophantic shtick on his SiriusXM radio show make it easy to underestimate him as a songwriter.

Don't.

Lauderdale, a two-time Grammy winner, may not sell a ton of albums or concert tickets, but he has worked with many top artists in a wide range of styles during his three-decade career. And he refuses to be confined to a single genre on his new 26-song set, half recorded in Memphis and half in Nashville.

Both volumes are expertly executed and benefit from a crack cast of studio musicians that includes guitarist Luther Dickinson, who co-produced with Lauderdale, and brother/drummer Cody Dickinson. The Memphis music locks into an R&B groove that stalls on a couple of long ballads before gaining momentum. Lauderdale drops down half an octave to sing "Super Power" to excellent effect, and the closing "Mysterious" is good and fast.

The Nashville volume is more consistently entertaining because the songs are stronger, and stranger. "I'm Just the Lookout" is inspired by either sci-fi or psychedelics, and "Signals from Space" is out there, too. "Plan B" addresses disaster management, and the topical "One Big Company" laments the loss of the mom-and-pop shop. These whimsical tunes and others are reminiscent of Roger Miller or Tom T. Hall — "Hee-Haw" at its best.