Sky Crunch Records
When it comes to Robert Hunter and Jim Lauderdale, it’s clear that these two great creative minds not only think alike, but also rhyme alike. Hunter (the long-time lyricist for the Grateful Dead who has collaborated with Lauderdale on previous projects) and Lauderdale (a prolific Nashville songwriter and trans-genre recording artist) have a shared proclivity for comic surrealism and colorful wordplay.
Sometimes, as in songs on this 13-cut selection such as “Troublemaker” and “Cole Bernier,” it almost seems like the narrative takes a back seat to their clever rhyme schemes. Not to mention, Lauderdale’s infectious vocal style often injects an underlying element of playfulness, even on the most serious of songs. It’s just these qualities that make a quirky love ballad like “Iodine” and the defiantly lovelorn “I Won’t Let It Show” so much fun to listen to. Ultimately, they make you want to laugh, rather than cry, in your beer. But great songs like the ominous, minor-key “Triple Crossroad Blues” (an imaginative bluegrass-style transfiguration of the old “devil at the crossroads” myth) and the deadly earnest “Anybody’s Guess” lack such emotional ambivalence. Instead Lauderdale imbues them with genuine emotion, as well as adroit wordsmithery. It’s the same with “Fiddler’s Heaven,” a heartfelt and worthy tribute to the pantheon of great bluegrass fiddle players on which, at times, Lauderdale himself is backed by no fewer than five fiddlers.
Carolina Moonrise was produced and mixed by award-winning resonator guitarist Randy Kohrs, who has long been Lauderdale’s right-hand man in the studio. Just like the production, the picking is also predictably first-rate. Aaron Ramsey (mandolin), Jay Weaver (bass), Scott Vestal (banjo), Tim Crouch (fiddle), Josh Williams (acoustic guitar), Kohrs (resonator guitar and harmony vocals), Ashley Kohrs (harmony vocals and fiddle), along with a slew of other fiddlers round out Lauderdale’s studio A-team. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)BA