Below the surface of a couple or three songs on Jim Lauderdale’s latest project lurks a touch of modernity. It’s a slight nod to the fact that although these 11 songs sound old (and I mean old as in written, recorded, and designed to sound that way), we should also remain aware that Lauderdale and his co-writers know they aren’t completely snared in a retro time warp.
That is certainly the case with the Lauderdale/Jon Weisberger composition “I Wish You Would Let Me Make Your Day.” The sound is certainly period-1950s and the style is classic-era, but the title phrase and a few other verses are there to ground us with a sly grin and a wink. So, too, with the title opener “Old Time Angels,” a highlight track with chart potential written all over it. That one comes roaring out of the speaker, fiddle wailing and bass thumping four-to-the-bar like it’s straight out of King studios, luring us into another time only to shatter the illusion with its tongue-in-cheek warning that the spirits of Polly, Omie, and Sadie, among others, are seeking vengeance in the hills around Knoxville.
Lauderdale has made an honest effort at capturing the Golden Era sound, perhaps to show us or himself it can still be done. To that end, he gathered resonator guitarist Randy Kohrs, bassist Jay Weaver, banjoist Scott Vestal (substituted by Charlie Cushman on “Old Time Angels”), mandolinist Mike Compton, and fiddler Billy Contrares—each masters of the period style—and had them gather live around a cluster of mics.
In his effort, he has succeeded beyond a doubt. Be it the lament of “I Might Seem Like A Loser (But I’m Really Not)” or the shuffling medium pulse of the sow-your-oats-then-come-home tune “Wild Blue Yonder” or the flowing Hank Williams-style “Losing Ground” or the “Sophronie”-esque “Hold On Honey Hold On,” any one of the 11 could have been written and recorded sixty-plus years ago, and almost any one of them could be a highlight track. Jim Lauderdale proves the old style can still be done—and done right. (Skycrunch Records/Smith Music Group, 131 E. Exchange, Ste. 102, Fort Worth, TX 76164, www.smithmusic.com.)BW