Jim Lauderdale is a decorated hero of Americana. The Grammy winner has worked alongside some of the biggest names in country and Bluegrass music; in fact, many site him for paving the way for the popularity of modern Americana along with the crossover of traditional and modern country music that fuses together rock and folk genres.
London Southern continues Jim's genre broadening work. As the title may suggest this is a very British-centric album, recorded in the capital with Nick Lowe's band and producers (including some fabulous work by the late, great Bobby Irwin). The album is more traditional British rhythm and blues with a splash of an American influence than some of Lauderdale's earlier work. Nevertheless, the album is an evolving river of musical diversity that morphs continually over the course of the 12 tracks.
The album begins with the standard country-tinged blues track, Sweet Things before leading into the soft shuffle romance of I Love You More. Within just two tracks we are reminded of Lauderdale's tremendous versatility as a writer and vocalist. There's plenty of influence from Van Morrison and of course, Nick Lowe (Irwin also played with both). The first of such influences creeps in with We've Only Got So Much Time. Lauderdale's soulful Southern voice easily eclipses anything that Van The Man can dish out in terms of tonality and emotion. What Have I Got To Lose, has more of an urban R&B vibe thanks to some beautiful backing vocals from Nashville Gospel singers The McCrary Sisters (Ann, Regina and Alfreda).
If I Can't Resist (co-written with John Oates), pulls in a Latin influence that shifts the album on a different course again with a strong and powerful tale of passion and submission. Don't Let Yourself Get In The Way and Don't Shut Me Down (co-written by Dan Penn) return the album to more of a traditional country feel, with Lauderdale rekindling, rather than hiding, that familiar and beautiful Southern twang.
This Is A Door, a 50s style rockabilly track that could have been written for Shakin' Stevens, feels like a slightly abrupt end to the album, but perhaps this was a deliberate ploy to leave the door open for more London fusions – which would be very welcome.
Far from being content to stick with the genre that has made his name, Jim Lauderdale continues to expand his musical influences and the result is certainly ebullient. The musicianship here is first rate, but with seasoned musicians like Geraint Watkins (keys) Steve Donnelly (guitar) Matt Radford (bass) and the idiosyncratic drumming of Robert 'Bobby' Trehern, you could hardly put a foot wrong. Lauderdale's songwriting once again stands out for his abilities to write about a huge range of subjects, in a variety of styles. It may not a particularly groundbreaking album from the King of Americana, but it's a laid back, very enjoyable fusion of roots music from both sides of the Atlantic.
Groupie Rating 3/5