Off The Record: Jim Lauderdale Keeps The “Memory” Of Robert Hunter Alive On New Record, ‘Hope’

On July 30th, a bonafide member of Americana royalty, Jim Lauderdale, dropped his 34th studio album: Hope, a powerful collection of tunes proving that the King of Broken Hearts still has an unparalleled ear for meaningful songcraft.

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Started before the pandemic, Hope came into the focus in the depths of quarantine as Lauderdale was searching for a way to make sense of everything happening in the world. As a result, many of the songs have a resounding sense of, well, hope to them… but not in a naive way. Rather, the 64-year-old songwriter exhibits a hard-earned hope, one that comes as a by-product of years of living and collecting wisdom. 

To that end, songs like “The Opportunity To Help Somebody Through It” and “Brave One” are testaments to music’s ability to shine light into darkness—the latter is a moving ode to frontline workers. With well-crafted Americana-rock arrangements, ingenious writing, and a warm, gorgeous sound, the record as a whole is like a torch in the middle of a long night.

One particular highlight is “Memory,” the final collaboration between Lauderdale and one of his longtime songwriting partners, Robert Hunter (of Grateful Dead fame). Hunter originally penned the words “a while back,” but it wasn’t until right before his death in 2019 that the tune was finished. Finally getting to share it now after a year defined by hardship and loss, there’s something touchingly fitting about Hunter’s timeless sentiment reaching listeners at this moment. 

A few weeks ago, Lauderdale sat down for a new episode of Off The Record at the Gibson Garage in Nashville to talk about the new record, his friendship with Hunter, his songwriting process, and more. Charming, candid, and open about his work, he offered some great insight into his career and how to put together a great song. Watch the conversation below:

American Songwriter’s Off The Record is a new series devoted to candid and insightful conversations with some of the best songwriters of our time—check out more episodes HERE.

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