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Lauderdale, Jim

Jim Lauderdale

Singer, songwriter

Jim Lauderdale has made a name for himself as one of Nashville's leading singer-songwriters. In addition to cutting his own critically acclaimed albums, he has written songs for such established stars as George Strait, Vince Gill, Kathy Mattea, and Kelly Willis, among others. Country singer Mark Chesnutt scored a number one hit with Lauderdale's "Gonna Get a Life," co-written with frequent partner and Nashville veteran Frank Dycus, while Patty Loveless notched two chart-topping songs with "Halfway Down" and the Grammy-nominated "You Don't Seem to Miss Me."

Unfortunately, the same popular success Lauderdale enjoyed behind the scenes didn't quite carry over into his pursuits as a recording artist, despite press raves for his albums, soulful voice, and confessional songs about life. As an explanation, many point to the fact that the artist's most admirable virtue as a solo performer may also be his curse—his ability to mine from a wide range of musical influences. Known for his eclectic tastes, the singer has seemed too restlessly creative for mass marketing. "His literate style of country," commented Mark Schone for a profile in the Encyclopedia of Country Music, "applies the progressive mind-set of Gram Parsons to the musical legacies of Memphis [Tennessee] and Bakersfield [California]."

Southern Musical Heritage

Born on April 11, 1957, in Troutman, North Carolina, James Russell Lauderdale, the precocious son of a minister and choir director, was influenced by the musical heritage of the South from an early age. Raised on the songs pouring from his father's scratchy radio and the music performed at regional bluegrass festivals, Lauderdale as a teen studied the vocal turns of George Jones, admired and understood the oaky baritone of Johnny Cash, embraced the emotional appeal of Buck Owens, and took in the subtle confessionals of Merle Haggard. After college Lauderdale became a journeyman, singing, writing, and accruing life experience as he moved from New York to Texas to Tennessee—where he stopped in Nashville long enough to record an unreleased album with bluegrass great Roland White—before settling down in Los Angeles.

All the while, Lauderdale carried with him the true country music that defined his childhood. Because of this open-mindedness, the songwriter was able to expand the definition of country music without compromising his roots. "Great music—whether it's George Jones, Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, or Bob Dylan—is great music because it's so real," Lauderdale once noted on his website, adding, "And part of being real is being true to who you are. Maybe you pick up some new influences, but you can never become something else."

After recording a second unreleased album for Columbia Records in 1987—both unreleased albums were eventually released during the 1990s/early 2000s—Lauderdale finally made his way into record stores in 1991 with a cut on the second Town South of Bakersfield compilation, an anthology of the Southern California alternative country music scene produced by Dwight Yoakam guitarist/producer Pete Anderson. After that, all of Lauderdale's solo efforts, while they did not earn a solid place in mainstream country, garnered favorable critical response, including his debut outing, Planet of Love. The album, exhibiting Lauderdale's vocal and compositional gifts, was co-produced by Rodney Crowell and John Leventhal and arrived on the Warner Brothers label in 1991.

Western Beat Star

Lauderdale, a favorite within the Los Angeles area country music scene, was often linked to artists from a seemingly dissimilar genre, such as Lucinda Williams (with whom he later toured in 1999), Dave Alvin, Rosie Flores, and Chris Gaffney, under the label "Western beat."

Next, Lauderdale moved to Atlantic Records to release a pair of equally impressive, though more roots-oriented, efforts: 1994's Pretty Close to the Truth and 1995's Every Second Counts. The first Atlantic album was hailed by several reviewers as one of the best country-rock efforts of the decade. Of the latter album, Alanna Nash of Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Between the chiming guitars and from-the-gut vocals you can hear traces of everyone from Cream to Van Morrison to Al Green. It took Lauderdale to make eclecticism this seamless." Likewise, Tony Scherman in People concluded, "Few singer-songwriters have Lauderdale's talent, curiosity and spine. He remains one of pop's best-kept secrets."

In 1996 Lauderdale returned with Persimmons, considered his rawest-sounding album to date. Like his previous releases, the album built upon styles from across the musical spectrum: from straight country, "Some Things Are Too Good to Last" sung with Emmylou Harris; to mid-1960s garage-band rock, "Tears So Strong"; to blues, "Optimistic Messenger"; to near metal-rock, "Jupiter's Rising." The album was released by Upstart, a subsidiary of Rounder Records, just before Lauderdale signed with RCA Records.

For the Record …

Born James Russell Lauderdale on April 11, 1957, in Troutman, NC; father a minister from South Carolina; mother, Barbara, a high school chorus teacher and church choir director; attended the North Carolina School of Arts.

Released debut Planet of Love, 1991; for Atlantic, released Pretty Close to the Truth (1994) and Every Second Counts (1995); released Persimmons (1996); released mainstream country albums Whisper (1998) and Onward Through It All (1999); penned songs covered by George Strait, Mark Chesnutt, Patty Loveless, and many others. Wrote and performed songs for the soundtracks of such films as Rosalie Goes Shopping, Galaxies are Colliding, The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag, Pure Country, Sunshine State, Transamerica, and Daltry Calhoun, 1989-2005; narrated Awake, My Soul: The Story of the Sacred Harp, 2006.

Awards: Music Row Award, Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year, 1996; BMI Country Award, Popularity as Measured by Broadcast Performances, for "We Shouldn't Really Be Doing This" and "You Don't Seem to Miss Me," 1999; BMI One Million Performances Award for "Gonna Get a Life" and "Halfway Down," 2000; Americana Music Awards, Song of the Year, for "She's Looking at Me" (with Ralph Stanley), 2002; Americana Music Awards, Artist of the Year, 2002; Sesac Americana Music Awards, National Performance Activity Award, for Headed for the Hill, 2004; Grammy Award, Best Bluegrass Album, for Lost in the Lonesome Pines (with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys), 2003.

Addresses: Record company—Yep Roc Records, P.O. Box 4821, Chapel Hill, NC 27515-4821, website: http://www.yeproc.com, phone: 877-733-3931, ext. 28. Booking—Mary Brabec, Billions Corporation, 833 W. Chicago Ave., Ste. 101, Chicago, Il 60622-5497, website: http://www.billions.com, phone: 312-997-9999, ext. 8235.

Mainstream Country

With RCA, Lauderdale released a more mainstream country album in 1998 titled Whispers, with the help of some of country music's finest songwriters: Nashville heavyweights Dycus, Harlan Howard, Melba Montgomery, and John Scott, as well as California friend Buddy Miller. In 1999 the singer/songwriter released two more records, another straight-country album for RCA, titled Onward Through It All, and a Grammy-nominated bluegrass duet album, I Feel Like Singing Today, with Ralph Stanley on the independent Rebel label. Lauderdale also guested on Stanley's ClinchMountain Country, and Stanley sang as a guest on Lauderdale's Whisper. "I've been wanting to do a bluegrass thing for years and years," Lauderdale told Jim Bessman of Billboard, "and to finally have one with Ralph Stanley is mind-blowing."

Again, Lauderdale raked in stellar reviews, but lacked substantive popular sales support. However, the musician felt satisfied and fortunate for what he had accomplished. "As day jobs go, [songwriting] isn't so bad. Realistically, all an artist can hope for is to get a chance to release a record and have support behind him. The rest is really gravy," he told David Sprague of Billboard. "There seems to be a growing crossover [appeal]," Lauderdale continued. "But I don't worry about making a niche for myself. It may be someone's job to do that, but it's not mine."

A Respected Independent Label Star

When RCA allowed Lauderdale's option to expire, the singer-songwriter found a welcome home at the independent DualTone label, which encouraged his eclectic nature. Teaming with 60s Nashville star Melba Montgomery, he released an album full of traditional country, The Other Sessions, which he had originally planned to record for RCA. He told Jeffrey B. Remz of Country Standard Time, "I felt a need to get some traditional country out there because in some ways it's kind of fading away."

The deal with DualTone signaled the most prolific recording era of Lauderdale's career. In addition to dabbling in acting—he portrayed George Jones in a Ryman Auditorium staged version of Tammy Wynette's life—the singer-songwriter astonished fans and critics alike by releasing a steady flow of high quality work.

The year 2002 proved a highwater mark creatively. In addition to releasing the genre-bending The Hummingbirds, Lauderdale re-teamed with bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley to record Lost in the Lonesome Pines. "It was actually a pretty high pressure situation for me," Lauderdale told Jon Weisberger of Country Standard Time. "Luckily I'd listened to so much of Ralph's stuff that I kind of understand the parameters of what he can and can't do. And the co-writers I had on those songs—Candace Randolph, Shawn Camp, and Robert Hunter—they really understood bluegrass too." After Lost in the Lonesome Pines won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album, Lauderdale became that rarest of all things, an independent label star who was in demand. He began touring with established stars like Mary Chapin Carpenter, and his songs began popping up on film soundtracks. This newfound clout allowed him to blur the lines between country, jazz, and rock even more. On 2003's Wait Til Spring, he concentrated heavily on extended musical jams with the band Donna the Buffalo. The following year he composed Headed for the Hills with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.

Full of creative surprises, Lauderdale left DualTone to sign with the North Carolina-based Yep Roc label in 2006. Immediately he re-established his art with lovers of traditional country with the Buck Owens-inspired, ironically titled Country Super Hits, Vol. 1 and the Buddy Miller co-produced Bluegrass.

By 2007 Lauderdale seemed hellbent on playing out his creative hot streak. During the spring, Pinecastle released an album he produced for Clinch Mountain boy Jack Cooke, Sittin' On Top of the World, and issued another roots masterpiece, Bluegrass Diaries. "It's been a particularly great period for me," Lauderdale proclaimed on his website. "Thanks to the records, I'm performing more and more, which I love. And I love that I can play the Opry one weekend, a jam-band festival the next and a bluegrass festival the following week. … I think there's a real thread there. The roots are all the same for all of them and that's the music I'm interested in."

Selected discography

Planet of Love, Warner Bros., 1991.

Pretty Close to the Truth, Atlantic, 1994.

Every Second Counts, Atlantic, 1995.

Persimmons, Upstart, 1996.

Whisper, RCA, 1998.

Onward Through It All, RCA, 1999.

(With Ralph Stanley) I Feel Like Singing Today, Rebel, 1999.

The Other Sessions, DualTone, 2000.

Point of No Return: The Unreleased 1989 Album, West Side, 2001.

(With Ralph Stanley) Lost in the Lonesome Pines, DualTone, 2002.

The Hummingbirds, DualTone, 2002.

Wait Til Spring, Skycrunch, 2003.

Headed for the Hills, DualTone, 2004.

Bluegrass, Yep Roc, 2006.

Country Super Hits, Vol. 1, Yep Roc, 2006.

Bluegrass Diaries, Yep Roc, 2007.

Video

Jim Lauderdale—Ohne Filter, MVD, 2005.

Sources

Books

Goodman, David, editor, Modern Twang: An Alternative Country Music Guide & Directory, Dowling Press, 1999.

Kingsbury, Paul, editor, Encyclopedia of Country Music, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Periodicals

Billboard, June 25, 1994, pp. 13-14; June 29, 1995, pp. 11-12; July 17, 1999.

Country Standard Time, July, 2001; May 2002; October 2006.

Entertainment Weekly, September 15, 1995, p. 108; August 20, 1999, p. 128.

People, October 23, 1995, p. 23; September 23, 1996, p. 25; February 23, 1998, p. 28

Online

"Jim Lauderdale," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (September 1, 2007).

"Jim Lauderdale Awards," Bluewater Music, http://www.bluewatermusic.com/awards.html (September 2, 2007).

"Jim Lauderdale," CMT.com, http://www.CMT.com (September 2, 2007).

"Jim Lauderdale," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com (September 1, 2007).

Jim Lauderdale Official Website, http://www.jimlauderdale.com (September 1, 2007).

"Jim Lauderdale," Yep Roc Records, http://www.yeproc.com/label.php, (September 1, 2007).

—Laura Hightower and Ken Burke

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Lauderdale, Jim

Jim Lauderdale

Singer, songwriter

For The Record

Influenced by Southern Musical Heritage

Western Beat Star

Mainstream Country

Selected discography

Sources

Though he spent much of his career based in Los Angeles, California, Jim Lauderdale has nevertheless made a name for himself as one of Nashvilles leading songwriters. He landed eight cuts with the platinum-selling country artist George Strait, including Where the Sidewalk Ends and King of Broken Hearts. Other hit-makers who covered Lauderdales songs include Vince Gill, Mandy Barnett, Kathy Mattea, and Kelly Willis, among others. Country singer Mark Chesnutt scored a number-one hit with Lauderdales Gonna Get a Life, co-written with frequent partner and Nashville veteran Frank Dycus, while Patty Loveless notched two chart-topping songs with Halfway Down and the Grammy-nominated You Dont Seem to Miss Me.

Unfortunately, the same popular success Lauderdale enjoyed behind the scenes never carried over into his pursuits as a recording artist, despite pages upon pages of press raves about his albums, his soulful voice, and confessional songs about life. As an explanation, many point to the fact that, although Lauderdale has released his own albums since the late-1980s in addition to writing scores of songs for other country artists, the artists most admirable virtue as a solo performer may also be his cursehis ability to mine from a wide range of musical influences. Known for his eclectic tastes, from country and bluegrass to jazz, blues, folk, and rock and roll, the singer seemed too restlessly creative for mass marketing. His literate style of country, commented Mark Schone for a profile in the Encyclopedia of Country Music, applies the progressive mind-set of Gram Parsons to the musical legacies of Memphis [Tennessee] and Bakersfield [California].

Thus, the very diversity of Lauderdales style resulted in country radio usually ignoring his own recorded efforts. Someone would say, How do you describe this album? he said to Chris Morris of Billboard, referring to his 1994 release Pretty Close to the Truth. Theyd say, Are you country? Is this alternative? Are you alternative country? I think the music is pretty eclectic, to the point where its several different things. Lauderdale, without any hint of snobbery, noted the differences between the music that inspired his own writing and the styles that nurtured his contemporaries as the reason why his records sound so unlike mainstream country. One of my takes about country music these days is that there are songs that are really kind of soft-rockwhat would be like early 70s California country, or Eagles-type stuff. Thats really kind of one of the main styles in country. Some of these country guys right now grew up listening to some of the softer rock, or the Eagles or Styx or Kiss or whoever, he added. But my influences were rawer. Of course there was the Beatles and the Stones and everything, but also Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf. Maybe there will be a time in country music when maybe its OK to have those influences and show them.

For The Record

Born James Russell Lauderdale on April 11, 1957, in Troutman, NC; son of a minister from South Carolina.

Became a journeyman musician after college, traveling to New York, Tennessee, Texas, and finally California, where he settled in Los Angeles; recorded two unreleased albums before releasing debut entitled Planet of Loue, 1991; released two roots-oriented albums for Atlantic Records, 1994s Pretty Close to the Truth and 1995s Every Second Counts; released the raw-sounding Persimmons, 1996; released mainstream country albums Whisper, 1998, and Onward Through It All, 1999; penned songs covered by George Strait, Mark Chesnutt, Patty Loveless, Vince Gill, Mandy Barnett, Kathy Mattea, and Kelly Willis, among others.

Addresses: Record company RCA Records, 8750 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211, (310) 3584000. Website Jim Lauderdale: http://www.jimlauderdale.com.

Influenced by Southern Musical Heritage

Born on April 11, 1957, in Troutman, North Carolina, James Russell Lauderdale, the precocious son of a minister, was influenced by the musical heritage of the South from an early age. Raised on the songs pouring from his fathers scratchy radio and the music performed at regional bluegrass festivals, Lauderdale as a teen studied the vocal turns of George Jones, admired and understood the oaky baritone of Johnny Cash, embraced the emotional appeal of Buck Owens, and took in the subtle confessionals of Merle Haggard. After college, Lauderdale became a journeyman songman, singing, writing, and accruing life experience as he moved from New York to Texas to Tennessee where he stopped in Nashville long enough to record an unreleased album with bluegrass great Roland Whitebefore settling down in Los Angeles.

All the while, Lauderdale carried with him the true country music that defined his childhood, yet also appreciated the music that infiltrated the various regions in which he lived. Because of this openmindedness, the songwriter was able to expand the definition of country music without compromising his roots. Great musicwhether its George Jones, Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, or Bob Dylanis great music because its so real, Lauderdale noted on his website, though he adds, And part of being real is being true to who you are. Maybe you pick up some new influences, but you can never become something else.

After recording a second unreleased album for Columbia Records in 1987, Lauderdale finally made his way into record stores in 1991 with a cut on the second Town South of Bakersfield compilation, an anthology of the Southern California alternative country music scene. Since then, all of Lauderdales solo efforts, while they did not earn mass acceptance, nonetheless garnered favorable critical response. His debut outing entitled Planet of Love, a stunning hard country album, he said, exhibiting Lauderdales vocal and compositional gifts and co-produced by Rodney Crowell and John Leventhal, arrived on the Warner Brothers label in 1991.

Western Beat Star

By now, Lauderdale was a favorite within the Los Angeles area country music scene, though he was often linked to artists from a seemingly dissimilar genrelike Lucinda Williams (with whom he later toured in 1999), Dave Alvin, Rosie Flores, and Chris Gaffneyunder the label Western beat. As Lauderdale explained to Morris, That concept came up when a bunch of us guys were playin at the Montreux Jazz Festival a few years ago. They had a country night. I thought that was a cool tag.

Next, Lauderdale moved to Atlantic Records to release a pair of equally impressive, though more roots-oriented efforts: 1994s Pretty Close to the Truth and 1995s Every Second Counts. The first Atlantic album was hailed by several reviewers as one of the best country-rock efforts of the decade. On the latter, wrote Alanna Nash for Entertainment Weekly Between the chiming guitars and from-the-gut vocals you can hear traces of everyone from Cream to Van Morrison to Al Green. It took Lauderdale to make eclecticism this seamless. Likewise, Tony Scherman in People concluded, Few singer-songwriters have Lauderdales talent, curiosity and spine. He remains one of pops best-kept secrets.

In 1996, Lauderdale returned with Persimmons, considered his rawest-sounding album to date. Like his previous releases, the album built upon styles from across the musical spectrum: from straight country, Some Things Are Too Good to Last sung with Emmylou Harris, mid-1960s garage-band rock, Tears So Strong, to blues, Optimistic Messenger, to near metal-rock, Jupiters Rising. Released by the small Upstart label, Lauderdale had recorded Persimmons just before signing with RCA Records.

Mainstream Country

With RCA, Lauderdale released a more mainstream country album in 1998 entitled Whispers with the help of some of country musics finest songwriters: Nashville heavyweights Dycus, Harlan Howard, Melba Montgomery, and John Scott, as well as California friend Buddy Miller. In 1999, the singer/songwriter released two more records, another straight-country album for RCA entitled Onward Through It All and a bluegrass duet album, I Feel Like Singing Today, with Ralph Stanley on the Rebel label. Lauderdale had also recently guested on Stanleys Clinch Mountain Country, and Stanley sang as a guest on Lauderdales Whisper. Ive been wanting to do a bluegrass thing for years and years, Lauderdale told Jim Bessman of Billboard, and to finally have one with Ralph Stanley is mind-blowing.

Again, Lauderdale raked in stellar reviews, but still lacked popular sales support. However, the musician felt satisfied and fortunate for what he had accomplished. As day jobs go, [songwriting] isnt so bad. Realistically, all an artist can hope for is to get a chance to release a record and have support behind him. The rest is really gravy, he told David Sprague of Billboard. There seems to be a growing crossover [appeal], Lauderdale continued. There are people whove heard my name in relation to Mark Chesnutt and people who know me from seeing me open for Hootie & the Blowfish. But I dont worry about making a niche for myself. It may be someones job to do that, but its not mine.

Selected discography

Planet of Love, Warner Bros., 1991.

Pretty Close to the Truth, Atlantic, 1994.

Every Second Counts, Atlantic, 1995.

Persimmons, Upstart, 1996.

Whisper, RCA, 1998.

Onward Through It All, RCA, 1999.

(With Ralph Stanley) I Feel Like Singing Today, Rebel, 1999.

Sources

Books

Kingsbury, Paul, editor, Encyclopedia of Country Music, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Periodicals

Billboard, June 25, 1994, pp. 1314; June 29, 1995, pp. 1112; July 17, 1999.

Entertainment Weekly, September 15, 1995, p. 108; August 20, 1999, p. 128.

People, October 23, 1995, p. 23; September 23, 1996, p. 25; February 23, 1998, p. 28

Online

Jim Lauderdale Official Website, http://www.jimlauderdale.com (May 11, 2000).

Laura Hightower

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lauderdale, Jim." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Lauderdale, Jim." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 13, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/lauderdale-jim

"Lauderdale, Jim." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved December 13, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/lauderdale-jim