Rooted and restless
Two-time Grammy winner, Americana luminary and former Angeleno Jim Lauderdale takes the stage at Levitt Pavilion Friday
By Bliss Bowen 06/20/2013
To many if not most onlookers, Jim Lauderdale emblemizes Nashville. He’s penned hits for the Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless, Gary Allan and George Strait, and he’s a Grammy winner as an artist in his own right (for 2002’s “Lost in the Lonesome Pines” with Ralph Stanley, and 2007’s “The Bluegrass Diaries”).
Each fall he hosts the Americana Music Association’s Honors & Awards ceremony at the fabled Ryman Auditorium in Music City. His song “Tough All Over” was featured in an episode of TV’s “Nashville,” and he made a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo on the show, playing banjo in a Grand Ole Opry scene.
Yet he spent his formative years in Los Angeles and, before that, Manhattan. He’s in LA again this week to play Pasadena’s Levitt Pavilion Friday.
“Lauderdoll,” as many female fans affectionately call him, is about as country as they come — which is to say, he has an uncommon facility for crafting honky-tonk melodies, a great ear for harmony and an unabashed love of colorful Western shirts and Nudie suits. The North Carolina native was mesmerized by the region that is now Joshua Tree National Park when he moved to Southern California in the 1980s and continues to find creative inspiration in the desert.
Lauderdale emerged from LA’s explosive late-’80s/early-’90s roots scene alongside Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Los Lobos, Rosie Flores, James Intveld, James Harman, Buddy and Julie Miller, the Blasters and Dave Alvin; like most of them, he was a fixture at Ronnie Mack’s Barndance nights at the legendary Palomino club in North Hollywood. In LA, Lauderdale finally landed the major label deal he’d long pursued, and it was here that he made 1994’s “Pretty Close to the Truth” — still one of his strongest albums.
Lauderdale acknowledged that fertile period last month when he headlined the Troubadour in West Hollywood with longtime pal Buddy Miller, with whom he co-hosts “The Buddy & Jim Show” on SiriusXM satellite radio. Backed by Miller’s band, the prolific duo delivered a rocking, powerfully soulful set of songs from their album “Buddy and Jim” as well as solo material.
The house was full of new and longtime fans and friends, including Mack, to whom Lauderdale offered heartfelt thanks. He also paid tribute to musical heroes George Jones and Gram Parsons with “The King of Broken Hearts” — one of the evening’s several crowd-pleasing highlights. Lauderdale’s rich, soaring tenor commanded attention whether fronting the band or accompanying himself with acoustic guitar. Unhindered by studio constraints, the bedrock of soul that informs his (and especially Miller’s) music was on full display, and it was hard not to wish they would collaborate on a blues-and-soul project. In the past Lauderdale has joked that they could have fun making a Sam & Dave type of record. No joke: It’s a great idea.
Jim Lauderdale takes the stage at Levitt Pavilion in Memorial Park, 85 E. Holly St., Pasadena, 8 p.m. Friday. Admission is free. For information, call (626) 683-3230. jimlauderdale.com