SESAC’s Songwriters Round With Jim Lauderdale

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Andrew Combs (second from right) is poised to carry the Americana hairdo torch, passed down from forebears Jim Lauderdale (center) and The Carter Brothers (far left).

Jim Lauderdale debuted new songs at Friday’s Americana Music Conference. On stage in the Davidson Ballroom, Lauderdale sang a new song with the refrain “Don’t keep a good man down,” which he said he’d recently co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Lauderdale and Hunter collaborated on the recent Patchwork River album. The new song, which Lauderdale said he just finished recording in Nashville for a new album of bluegrass tunes co-written with Hunter, mined the traditional lyric “cruel wind and driving rain,” which some might also identify from Dead territory. Later on, Lauderdale played a song he had co-written with Elvis Costello, which he said would appear on Costello’s next record.

Also on the stage for SESAC’s songwriters round were the Carter Brothers, Tim and Dan, distant (though marketable) relations to A.P., Sarah and Mother Maybelle Carter (Tim and Dan’s great grandfather was A.P.’s first cousin.) The brothers played a nice blend of blues and bluegrass, with well-written, if predicable, songs. On the far end of the stage sat Webb Wilder, whose song “Wild Honey” seemed to borrow a hook from Van Morrison’s “Blue Money.” (Incidentally, Morrison also has a 1980 song called “Wild Honey.”) Nonetheless, Wilder produced the most dynamic stage presence of the group, with his songs equally blending pop, rock and rockabilly.

An interesting addition to the lineup came in the form of newcomer Andrew Combs (pictured with Jim Lauderdale), one of the most promising singers from Nashville. His version of “Tennessee Time” quieted the already-quiet room. A second song, a co-write with Big Machine Publishing’s Burton Collins, didn’t take off in quite the same way as “Tennessee.” But, for a newcomer on stage with veterans like Lauderdale and Wilder, Combs’ addition was no doubt a strong vote of confidence from the SESAC organization.


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Sessions: Elizabeth Cook