Press shot for Jim Lauderdale's 2022 album 'Game Changer'
Scott Simontacchi

Jim Lauderdale Sings Positive Messages in an Overly Negative World

As the artist behind 2020 bluegrass tune "You've Got This" and the 2021 album Hope, Jim Lauderdale isn't exactly an evangelist for the bad news gospel. Still, it's notable that his classic country-style project Game Changer serves up heaping helpings of positivity.

He showed his hand with the album's two advanced listens: galloping West Coast country-rocker "That Kind of Life (That Kind of Day)" and the more Bakersfield-style "Friends Again." Both share words of encouragement, with such songs as the sentimental "Let's Make Some Memories," the empathetic "We're All We've Got" and the romantic title track following suit.

"They are pretty positive, a lot of them, whereas in life though and in country songs, there is tragedy and heartache," Lauderdale told Wide Open Country. "I felt like it's always good to have something positive out there to balance things out."

Not all songs fit this country sunshine mold, as represented by waltz-able heartbreaker "Wishbone" and fiery Southern rocker "Hoggin' My Mind." They, too, draw heavily on country music's past with help from some of Nashville's top session musicians, including such modern-day heavy-hitters as third generation multi-instrumentalist Chris Scruggs and regular Lauderdale collaborators Lillie Mae and Frank Riche.

"These guys, hanging around them in the studio, I just realized more and more that they're so steeped in country music," Lauderdale said. "All of these guys do a lot of live work around town. They've done their lion's share on the road. Chris is out with Marty Stuart as his bass player. He's a fantastic lead player and has great ideas. But being around these guys, they know their back catalog of country so well. They're very passionate about it. It's great to be around them and surround myself musically with what they're doing."

Lauderdale also called on some veterans to help recreate time-tested sounds: namely steel guitar great and former George Jones bandmate Steve Hinson.

"I love pedal steel, and I love the way that steel and telecaster go together sometimes on certain things," Lauderdale added. "That's why that line on 'That Kind of Life, That Kind of Day,' this twin thing, I love to write those kinds of melodies in my head for them."

In songwriting sessions, a similar mix of old souls (Logan Ledger, Sara Douga) and living legends (Odie Blackmon, Mary Gauthier) helped Lauderdale pen positivity to paper. 

"It's fun when you get with somebody and you click," Lauderdale explained. "With all the writers on the record, that happened. It's really a joyous thing when you can create something with somebody just from scratch. That's one of the things I love about co-writing is that in however long it takes, you both come up with something you never would have on your own. It's just a really good feeling to come up with something together." 

On the album's release date (Fri., Aug. 26), Lauderdale will perform on the perfect show for a cheerful song or three: the Grand Ole Opry. 

"I hope that it resonates with folks that like country," Lauderdale said. "It's an honor to work with the people I got to work with, and it's an honor to get to do shows with other country artists and at festivals. To do the Opry, that really is just kind of the pinnacle, I think, of any country artist. It's always such a rush to do that. So, I think [the new album] definitely fits in with tradition. I hope that even though these times have changed and I don't want to make just a retro record— you know, reliving certain sounds or things constantly. I want to work within those parameters. With country, even though it's very diverse and has gotten more and more so over the years, I just want to proudly say, 'Hey yeah, this is a country record.' And I hope that it'll make people feel good."

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