Jim Lauderdale — Game Changer
Review by Mark Pelavin
Game Changer is Americana icon Jim Lauderdale’s 35th album, a body of work whose quality and quantity clearly mark him as a Nashville institution. In fact, this year he is nominated for the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame which would be added to his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association.
So let’s cut to the chase: if you enjoyed most of Lauderdale’s previous 34 albums, you are going to enjoy Game Changer. Game Changer has everything you would want in a Lauderdale album – interesting and moving songwriting, remarkable musicianship across the board, and his singular voice. That is not to damm Game Changer with faint praise; it is, rather, to acknowledge the remarkable consistency of Lauderdale’s recordings. Lauderdale himself is well aware of the challenge his own history creates. He says that “It’s a constant challenge to try to keep making better and better records, write better and better songs. I still always feel like I’m a developing artist.”
It may be physically impossible not to smile during the album opener, and first single, “That Kind of Life (That Kind of Day).” Lauderdale’s writing reflects the strange moment we are in today and offers up a welcome dose of optimism: “I bet everybody wants that kind of feeling/Where things will go a little more their way/I hope your hopes will come through while you’re waiting,/And you’ll have that kind of life that kind of day.” The band, and especially Will Van Horn’s pedal steel guitar, create an uptempo song you can imagine blaring from car radios all summer long.
Other standout songs include “Friends Again,” whose message about friends reuniting is driven home by a couple of great Telecaster riffs and some lovely pedal steel guitar, and the ballad “We’re All We’ve Got,” a co-write with Mary Gauthier and Jaimee Harris (“We’ll have to cross the great divide/where we all think we all are right/we seem to do that quite a lot/but while we’re here, we’re all we got”).
Lauderdale remains one of the best writers around. How can you resist a lyric like “I’ve got a wishbone where my backbone ought to be?”
The playing on Game Changer surprises on every track. Lauderdale clearly has his choice of sidemen, and he chooses wisely. He does not lock himself into any one player. Van Horn, for example, is one of four outstanding pedal steel players on the album. The same is true of the songwriting. The 12 songs on the album were written by Lauderdale, with 10 co-writers.
Reflecting on the art of producing great songs, Lauderdale says “When everything works right, it’s just magical to be able to hear them back. You feel, at least for those three-and-a-half minutes, like life makes sense.” With Game Changer, you can get feeling song after song.
Game Changer is available everywhere you buy, stream, or download music. Lauderdale also has upcoming tour dates, including during AmericanaFest in September and the Outlaw Country West cruise in November.
Mark Pelavin is a writer, consultant and music lover living, very happily, in St. Michaels, MD. He can be reached at email@example.com