Playing Time - 35:51 -- Choosing bluegrass as his genre of choice to document his written record of experiences and thoughts, Grammy award-winner Jim Lauderdale continues to shake things up. It's not the first time Jim's made strong bluegrass statements. While the diverse Nashville-based musician is equally comfortable with country and other kinds of singer/songwriter material, he's a guy who clearly has bluegrass in his blood. Arriving in Nashville in the late-1970s, Jim had hoped to pursue a bluegrass career but he was just "Looking for a Good Place to Land." He moved into mainstream country and has appeared on the Grand Ol' Opry. The prolific songwriter has penned hits for artists like Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Mark Chesnutt, Kathy Mattea, and George Strait. Jim's major nod to bluegrass came in 1997 when he featured Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys on his album, "Whisper." Lauderdale then was a guest on Stanley's "Clinch Mountain Country" project, and he is now an honorary Clinch Mountain Boy. Building on the chemistry between Jim and Ralph, they collaborated on an album of their own, the Grammy-nominated and highly recommended "I Feel Like Singing Today." In 2002, his Grammy-winning "Lost in the Lonesome Pines" release featured both himself and Ralph Stanley singing his own self-penned songs. Those projects had the backing of the Rebel and Dualtone record labels. In 2006, his "Bluegrass" debut on YepRoc Records showed us that his fresh, new bluegrass reflected the power, sentiments and emotions of traditional music. Produced by resophonic guitarist Randy Kohrs, "The Bluegrass Diaries" sticks with the winning recipe for beefy original material, forceful vocals, and lively instrumental accompaniment.
"The Bluegrass Diairies" features eleven originals, three of which were solely penned by Jim. His other eight songs include some heavy hitting songwriting collaborators (Melba Montgomery, Odie Blackmon, Shawn Camp, Paul Craft, J.D. Souther, Candace Randolph). Jim's songs have an affinity for love-related themes, but a driving song like "One Blue Mule" has the kind of humorous bluegrass hook that will give you a chuckle. Randy Kohrs' soaring harmony vocals are ever present. If you like recalling a time when the Louvin Brothers were in their prime, a new song like "Are You Having Second Thoughts" (sung with Ashley Brown) is a real treasure. Dave Evans, a rootsy lead vocalist in his own right, is an interesting, unique choice for harmony vocalist on two numbers "Can We Find Forgiveness" and "It's Such A Long Journey Home." Cia Cherryholmes makes a silky appearance in "I Wanted to Believe." The instrumental icing on the cake comes from Randy Kohrs (Dobro), Jesse Cobb (mandolin), Richard Bailey (banjo), Aaron Till (fiddle), Jay Weaver (bass), and Cody Kilby, Clay Hess or Shawn Camp (guitar).
The North Carolina native and son of a minister/choir director is very proud of his bluegrass roots, and his diaries have plenty of deliberations that convey the bluegrass propulsion and drive. He tips his hat to his bluegrass buds when the disc ends with an instrumental reprise to the closing number after Jim asks, "Y'all wanna run some more? Alright ...." Thanks Jim for making public the great musical reflections of your bluegrass diaries. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)