Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It’s unlikely that veteran Nashville singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale will ever catch up to the sheer number of albums that Willie Nelson has recorded. But with this, Lauderdale’s 29th CD (and seventh since 2013 — a year he released three full lengths), he’s giving it his best shot. Like Willie, Lauderdale’s music incorporates multiple influences with country at its core. Soul, bluegrass, American standards, folk and even hints of jazz infuse both artists’ music. While London Southern can’t be considered Lauderdale’s Stardust since all the songs are originals, it often replicates Nelson’s easy going style.
As the title implies, Lauderdale recorded these dozen tunes in the UK. But using Nick Lowe’s producer and touring band — who he met in the ‘90s — brings a unique approach; a relaxed, respectful grooving English-American slant to the playing, heavily indebted to 60’s U.S. R&B and countrypolitan. From the finger snapping Chicago-styled soul of “You Came to Get Me” to the Byrds/Searchers strum of “Don’t Let Yourself Get in the Way” and the bluesy, horn-enhanced sway of “I Can’t Do Without You,” Lauderdale and his backing group find a sweet spot that’s retro yet natural and organic.
The songs came together quickly, but there is nothing rushed in their execution. Lauderdale’s slight twang is effortless and spontaneous, the playing by Lowe’s U.K. band captures the vibe of this roots American music without sounding the least bit pretentious, and production by Neil Brockbank and Robert Trehern navigates the Anglo/Americana angle with disarming ease.
Lauderdale shifts to Curtis Mayfield territory on the easy gospel influence of “What Do You Have to Lose” and taps into an early Van Morrison circa Moondance stance for the sweet, soulful ballad “Different Kind of Groove.” The simmering, supper club, laid-back Latin noir with standup bass of “If I Can’t Resist” is smooth jazz/blues perfection. And the innocent upbeat pop of “You Came to Get Me” should be blaring from radios as the song of this, or future summers.
Not surprisingly, this cross-Atlantic pollination sounds like a terrific Nick Lowe album with Lauderdale singing. It’s yet another successful side trip for the prolific Nashville resident, showing both Lauderdale’s uncanny ability to shapeshift his approach while staying true to his Americana roots. Willie Nelson would approve.
Now where’s that Lowe/Lauderdale tour?