Lately it seems that any discussion of country music must necessarily concern itself with image, marketing, unit sales, and play-list rotation, while ignoring the two most important aspects of the conversation: the country part and the music part. Nashville has become so preoccupied with its enormous pop success that it seems to have forgotten its position as fertile crescent in the development of country music.
Jim Lauderdale has never forgotten the Sturm and Twang of real, authentic country-and-western music. Although he has made frequent forays into the realms of roots-rock and Americana, Lauderdale knows what constitutes great old-time country and can present it at the drop of a hat. Someone's hat is most definitely on the floor, because Lauderdale has uncorked another wonderful example of his pure love of authentic rural songs with his latest album, The Other Sessions. With Sessions, Lauderdale's debut for upstart Dualtone, he has once again translated his love for tradition into a work that is steeped in the classics yet still fresh and contemporary.
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From the Buck Owens-fueled opener, "If I Were You," and the similarly charged-up and galloping "First Things First" to the weepy and clever "Merle World" and the Deep South lilt of "Honky-Tonk Haze," Lauderdale easily eclipses the faux country that dominates Music City these days. One of Sessions' real showstoppers is Lauderdale's chugging version of "Diesel, Diesel, Diesel," a song that he and Del Reeves wrote for Rig Rock Deluxe, a 1996 truck-driving tribute album.
Lauderdale's songwriting successes subsidize his ability to do whatever he wants within the context of his recording career. From the trad-country of 1998's Whisper to the rootsy Onward Through It All and the surprising bluegrass collaboration with Ralph Stanley in 1999, and now with The Other Sessions, Lauderdale continues along a diverse and immensely satisfying country path that leads where Shania fears to tread.