Jim Lauderdale has been around for quite a while now. The singer-songwriter has never really received the attention he merits, but it hasn’t stopped him from still doing the tours, the studio work and continuing the cycle of life for a musician. This latest album, with the supporting cast in Donna the Buffalo, features more fine songwriting but with a certain concentration towards the blues. The title track, which seems to be the starting point for what Chris Isaak has always wanted to achieve, is the creeping blues-rock that works so well. “Curled up like a team of champions”, Lauderdale sings while backed by piano, electric guitar and organ. The tune is an up-tempo affair that sets the album off magically.
What separates Lauderdale apart from other musicians though is his ability to meld whatever works, whether it’s the galloping country sound of “Different Kind of Lightning” or its intricate guitar picking thread throughout. The sweet harmonies are another surprise here before settling into a nice ambling roots Americana track. “Listen to her ride the clouds / Flashing through the silence showing us that she’s around”, Lauderdale sings before a rather brash electric guitar kicks into high gear. Although it loses just a bit of momentum two-thirds of the way in, it’s not enough to turn the listener off. “Some Other Bayou” is a Cajun-cum-roots tune that resembles recent John Hiatt adventures. The drums are a tad different and off-kilter from the norm, but the band seems to find the groove from the onset. It comes off a bit like early Doug Kershaw in portions of the number.
If there’s one track that loses its footing, it’s the soulful blues coming from “Slow Motion Trouble”. Here Lauderdale gives his best, but it just isn’t good enough to carry the song. Too often not much happens aside from a deliberate blues backbeat. The title unfortunately lives up to the song’s billing, as it’s in slow motion and results in too much trouble for the listener. Thankfully the soul of “Ginger Peach” shines through despite the pedestrian delivery on harmonies. It brings to mind something that the Pretenders nailed on Loose Screw, possibly “Complex Person”. There’s a reggae quality to it that doesn’t diminish Lauderdale’s finest delivery of the album. The seventies feel it has isn’t quite as strong, thankfully.
“That’s Not the Way It Works” offers more of a roots rock feeling à la Steve Earle or a Jim Cuddy-led Blue Rodeo. Aided by fiddler and multi-instrumentalist Tara Nevins, Lauderdale finds himself in a safe yet very good place. Possibly so good it might be “singles” or “radio” material. The same can’t be said for “Sapphire”. Here, Lauderdale opts for a swampy wah-wah guitar groove that falls off the mark. Moving from a rapid tempo to a slower melody is a disaster. It seems too much like filler to be even considered filler. This should have been left on the cutting room floor or Pro Tools recycling bin. “This World Is Getting Mean” has a country slant that Marty Stuart or Radney Foster would revel in. Minimal during the verses, backing harmonies gives it a gospel-like sound.
Lauderdale tends to veer back between relaxing with upbeat numbers or “relax and roll” for lack of a better phrase. “Awake Now” has the same traits as “Ginger Peach” with its soothing summer sounds and clocks in at under three minutes. “Holding Back” holds nothing back as everything is full steam ahead, making it another favorite for the record. On the whole, fans of Lauderdale will be more the pleased with this effort. It’s also a decent start for newcomers to the musician.