Jim Lauderdale/Hope/Yep Roc
Four Out of Five Stars
Jim Lauderdale easily qualifies as one of the most prolific singer/songwriters of our era. In the past, it wasn’t unusual for him to release multiple albums in a single year, or for that matter, multiple albums simultaneously. He seems to possess an endless reservoir of new material, many of which come across like instant classics as if they’ve been residing in the ethos forever.
Naturally then, the same can be said of Hope, its tell-tale title indicating a need to advance optimism in these, particularly troubling times. Lauderdale, an amiable and authentic artist whose ability to connect with audiences is consistently evidenced in person and on record, is the ideal envoy; his easy croon and smooth serenades set a tone that creates an instant embrace. I’m glad to live another day, your memory helps pave the way, he coos on “Memory,” a co-write with the late lyricist Robert Hunter. It’s a song of assurance even though its reflection pertains to the past.
While Lauderdale is best known as a country crooner, Hope offers a broader musical expanse through a sound that finds it nearing the pop periphery. The uplifting anthem, “The Opportunity To Help Somebody Through It” is upbeat and assertive, its encouraging messaging resonating throughout the entire album. “Mushrooms Are Growing After the Rain” becomes a joyful romp of sorts, suggesting that there’s always an opportunity to rebound after a storm. The insistent “Brave One” advances a push for perseverance, while “Breathe Real Slow” shares a mantra, Lauderdale’s measured delivery providing self-help when it’s needed the most.
Indeed, Lauderdale is a confident coach in that regard. The jangly “Don’t You Dream Anymore” captures a decided ‘60s sensibility, gliding easily through a tapestry of electric and acoustic guitars chiming in euphoric harmony. “We Fade Out, We Fade In” follows suit, a wistful waltz spiked with psychedelia. Likewise, when Lauderdale ends the set with a series of songs that underscore the pointedly positive perspective—the calming caress of “It’s Almost More Than All the Joy,” the robust, brass-infused revelry of “Here’s To Hoping,” the quietly assured “When Searching for Answers,” and the ultimate uptick of “Joyful Noise”—he makes it all too obvious that he’s thoroughly committed to that positive perspective.
Granted, it’s not always easy to persevere in such tenuous times, but credit Lauderdale for leading the way. Hope is nothing less than a source of celebration.