The songs on Jim Lauderdale’s new double album, Soul Searching: Vol. 1 Memphis/Volume 2 Nashville (due for Sept. 25 release) are so vibrant, so deceptively simple, so absolutely, yes, soulful, that it’s almost stunning to discover that the two-time Grammy Award winning artist—whose work has been recorded by everyone from George Strait to Blake Shelton—finished writing and recording the songs just a few weeks ago.
“I really wanted to record something and get it finished and out as soon as possible so that it was totally fresh and new,” Lauderdale says from his Nashville-area base just before getting ready to play a few gigs before hosting the Americana Music Fest. “We ended up adding more songs and more details and more tweaks. I’m worn out a bit from it, but I feel great about the music. It’s refreshing.”
The 26 songs on these albums—all of which were written or co-written by Lauderdale—alternately drip with a steamy blues sound and the heartrending wail of classic Elvis. Joining Lauderdale in the studio were brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson and other blues masters, including Alvin Youngblood Hart.
Lauderdale rightfully praises the virtuosity of all the musicians on the album, but it’s clear that only he could have birthed such a wholeheartedly fervent and compelling record. His vast knowledge of soul, roots and country influences ranging from The Beatles to Elvis to Merle Haggard is evident in the more than two-dozen songs.
To reignite the vibe of his musical memories, Lauderdale recorded the Memphis disc at Royal Studios, where greats including Otis Clay and Al Green recorded. To further add to the sound, Lauderdale used some of Green’s old band members and team on that disc. Then he recorded the Nashville disc—which is more rock than classic country—at the renowned Victor A studio where Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison and others recorded.
Credit the atmosphere of the two legendary studios for adding to Lauderdale’s sonic inspiration. But the idea that the studios were somehow responsible for these masterful songs is as ludicrous as saying anyone recording at the famed Electric Lady Studios in New York will channel Jimi Hendrix.
“As a youngster I was listening to The Beatles and heard music that was bluegrass and county and music my folks played,” Lauderdale says. “My mom was a chorus teacher and choir director at church and they really enjoyed music.I always enjoyed the different kinds of music and [these songs and melodies] were always in my head.”
And fortunately, they’re now available to us.