Tom Waits may have pleased his fans by releasing two albums at once this month, but Jim Lauderdale has done him one better: two albums, but one of them with Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys. This is damn good news for Lauderdale fans, who can't get enough of his honeyed, George Jones-like tenor. In harmony with Stanley, the bluegrass fervor runs high and lonesome among songs of ripe apples, piney woods, Biblical characters, and faithless women. Lauderdale composed most of the tunes (save for Bill Monroe's "The Boat") solo or with co-writers like Robert Hunter ("Deep Well of Sadness," "Oh, Soul!"), and his proficiency with mountain music is as astonishing as it is authentic. What's even more amazing is that while his last solo project, The Other Sessions, was puredee honky-tonk, The Hummingbirds is as rootsy and countrified as his earlier Persimmons. Lauderdale's songwriting is again the dynamic; more tunes with Hunter ("Jacob's Ladder," "Rollin' the Dice") and other songwriters (notably Susan Gibson on "I'm Happiest When I'm Moving") suggest that even two albums at once may not be outlet enough for Lauderdale's talent. Next time, how about a three-fer? (Jim Lauderdale plays the Continental Club Sunday, May 19.)
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