Jim Lauderdale

Honey Songs

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At a time when what passes for wisdom in the music business suggests you should make an album and then milk it for all its worth for at least a couple years, Jim Lauderdale prefers to do things the old-fashioned way -- he writes songs and makes records with care but without dawdling, and 2008's Honey Songs is his fourth album in 18 months. The sessions for Honey Songs find Lauderdale backed by what he calls "the Dream Players," and this is a band with more than a few legends on board -- guitarist James Burton and drummer Ron Tutt from Elvis Presley's T.C.B. Band, Garry Tallent from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band on bass, and legendary session men Glen D. Hardin (piano) and Al Perkins (pedal steel). (The crew of backing vocalists is stellar as well, including Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Patty Loveless, and Kelly Hogan.) Despite the high-priced help, Lauderdale has no trouble showing he's the star of the show on Honey Songs; while these ten songs generally deal with traditional themes, his skill with a lyric and a melody is never in doubt, and from the cautionary tale of "Hittin' It Hard" and the hard-loving joy of "Honeysuckle Honeypie" to the heartbroken lament of "Molly's Got a Chain" and "Those Kind of Things Don't Happen Every Day"'s stories of unexpected generosity, Lauderdale's songs reveal a subtle intelligence and understanding of his characters that speak both wisdom and common sense, and his tunes are every bit as compelling as the words. Lauderdale's a fine singer to boot, and with a band this strong behind him, he's able to give these performances the honest emotional delivery they deserve. Jim Lauderdale isn't trying to pretend he's working in Nashville in 1958 -- he simply understands the virtues of Nashville's golden era and applies them to the songs he's writing in the 21st century, and Honey Songs is a splendid example of the best of country's past and present. Think he can make another album this good in six months?

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