A CONVERSATION WITH JIM LAUDERDALE
I grew up in the folk boom of the 60s, and started playing guitar early, like most of my friends today. I was living in the Jersey and Philly suburbs, certainly didn't know any cowboys. Pickups weren't even very popular around there. There were a lot of kids in our family, and the stereo never cooled down. Everything from Mississippi John Hurt to Captain Beefheart. Byrds, Dylan, Beatles and the Stones.
But I'll never forget the day in my mid teens when I discovered stone Country. My old man had his first of several tool factories, and I was sweeping up down in the machine shop. There were three tool and die makers. There was Ed Goehringer, a thoughtful man and a good jazz guitarist, a protege of the great Tal Farlow, who lived down the Jersey shore. And there were Bob and Bernie, good old boys, rednecks before I knew the word. They usually had the radio pretty cranked up in their corner of the world.
As I pushed a huge pile of metal shavings toward their area, a groove jumpin out of that shop radio took hold of my attention. The guitar was just tearin it up, I was electrified, rooted to the spot. "What the hell is that?" I hollered. Bob and Bernie looked out from their lathes and laughed. "That's Merle Haggard, son. C'mon back here." He was singing "Working Man Blues." They turned it up for me, so I could see what it was all about, and I sure did. And it made all of the other music I was listening to make a different kind of sense. It was a piece of the puzzle I didn't know was missing.
Everything changes, especially popular music. It's hard to find that kind of Country music today, but it's still around if you know where to look for it.
Jim Lauderdale's new record The Other Sessions is his brilliant take on that golden Country sound, what he calls Hard Country. He's a respected and successful songwriter in Nashville, one who understands the traditions of Country and Bluegrass and writes and records with many of their greatest living exponents. He writes inside and outside the box with the very best of them, and gets a lot of cuts on mainstream Country radio with major artists like George Strait and the Dixie Chicks. At the same time, he's one of the leading figures in Alternative Country, and tours with Lucinda Williams. His latest accomplishment is playing the part of George Jones in the stage production of Stand By Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story. I'll be seeing it this Thursday night, front row balcony, some of my favorite seats in the legendary Ryman Auditorium. I'll add a postscript about it to this interview after the show.
We met in Fido, a notorious coffee shop in Nashville, and rambled on about everything under the sun. Here's a lively conversation with the quintessentially hip Country artist. continue