Jim Lauderdale is a critically acclaimed songwriter, yet his own music is not widely known by the public at large.

Jim’s songs have been recorded by George Strait, Patty Loveless, George Jones, Vince Gill, Mark Chesnutt, Kathy Mattea, Buddy Miller, Kelly Willis, Shelby Lynne, David Ball and the Dixie Chicks. (In fact, George Strait has recorded 13 Lauderdale songs, and Patty Loveless seven, including the two on her newest release.)

From the earliest days of his musical career, though, Jim has been recognized by his fellow artists as more than just a songwriter. He’s provided skilled harmony and solid background vocals on many releases, including those by Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams, Chris Gaffney & the Cold Hard Facts, Carlene Carter, Rodney Crowell, Mark Chesnutt, Kevin Montgomery, Buddy and Julie Miller, Sara Evans, Charlie Robison and James Cotton.

For over 15 years, Jim’s work has been a strong, positive influence on modern day incarnations of Traditional Country and Bluegrass. During the same time, however, he’s released a dozen of his own CDs, which encompass genres from Hard Country and rootsy Rock ‘n’ Roll to Folk and Bluegrass.

Jim has not always been a musician. This North Carolina boy set off to New York to act in theatre. But after performing in two national touring companies, Jim settled in Los Angeles. He returned to the Country music he loved and began playing in the legendary Palomino Club. Jim got his start recording with Pete Anderson, then Dwight Yoakam’s producer, by laying down a track for the collection A Town South of Bakersfield in 1986. He was showcased on the CD with various artists, including Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Kathy Moffat. This exposure led to a short contract with CBS records, but it wasn’t until he signed with Bluewater in Nashville, Tennessee, that Country music began to take note of his talents. For the last five years, his recording home has been Dualtone.

Although he enjoys his solo work, Jim’s music collaborations have often brought him great successes. His Lost in the Lonesome Pines, recorded with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album in 2002. (The album was Jim’s second with the venerable Ralph Stanley and his band; 1999’s I Feel Like Singing Today was recently rereleased.)

Jim enjoys the variety and challenge of performing in different musical styles, as he did during his recent tour with Donna the Buffalo—a popular festival band that blends Country with Rock, Cajun, Zydeco and Folk flavors. Jim also tours with two bands of his own: a Classic Country band based out of Austin, Texas, and his Bluegrass band from Nashville.

Despite his busy touring schedule, Jim always finds time to write. When he first moved to California, he used to go into the desert and let the solitude and rugged beauty of the land assist in his creativity. He rarely has the chance to set aside large blocks of time now, but he grabs a few days here and there. Most of his writing is done at his home in Nashville. Jim records the lyrics on paper, but the melody he composes on his guitar stays in his head until he’s at the recording studio, where he can play his new song for his band. Once the members chart the chord progressions, they record the song that day. Jim works well under pressure and will often schedule studio time in advance in order to give himself a deadline to meet.

His most recent release was Headed for the Hills, a songwriting collaboration with one of his musical heroes, Robert Hunter. Best known as a lyricist for the late Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, Hunter wrote 34 songs with Lauderdale for this album, 13 of which were recorded. Jim is busily working on his next project between this year’s festival performances and tours. He has high hopes to release this fall a double album with one disc being Country and the other, Bluegrass.


Bill Groll calls Austin, Texas, home. Visit to learn more about his taste in music.

Related Articles

  • nothin-fancy

    There’s nothin’ fancy here, just toe-tappin’ good ole Bluegrass music. The disc is filled with…

  • josh-crowe

    Guitarist and vocalist Josh Crowe has a solid reputation for performing traditional Bluegrass music built…

  • molly-ventner

    With a strong voice the texture of fine suede, this Austin-based folksinger puts prose to music,…