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Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009

Jim Lauderdale

Could We Get Any Closer? (Sky Crunch)

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If not the most innovative man in Nashville these days, Jim Lauderdale is certainly one of the most expansive. His career has spanned pop, contemporary country and bluegrass, and he’s found considerable success as a songsmith for the likes of George Strait, Patty Loveless and Vince Gill.

Now, amid swirling and hopeful reports that Lauderdale’s been collaborating with Milwaukee’s own Paul Cebar, he gives us a fiddle-crying, Kentucky-fried wash of strings and dusty heartaches. Opening with some ragged banjo and hot-potato riffs that would seem to signify the bluegrass bin in the record store, the album eventually settles down and most of the tracks become of a tears-in-beers piece.

Not that that’s a bad thing. The roundabout melody of “Almost Satisfied” and the jazzy parlor swing of “That’s Why I’m Here With You” prove the most fun. But all over there’s the homely turns of phrase and soulful drawl—like Gram Parsons in overalls—that showcase one of the most gentle and old-school voices on the country scene today.