Written by Michael Pittman and originally posted on http://www.houstonmusicreview.com
Sep 06, 2011 at 12:00 AM
The smoke from the wildfires out around Magnolia was wafting across The Woodlands this evening on the way in to catch one of Nashville’s most prolific songwriters performing at what I would later find out was the 101st taping of Kyle Hutton’s wildly successful Real Life Real Music show at Dosey Doe’s. Let me just stop and mention how the smoke is a very palpable reminder of the hardship so many here in Texas are enduring, not just from the fires but from the drought too. I’m sure mine aren’t the only thoughts and prayers that are going out to those affected.
If you’ve never been to one of Kyle’s shows, you’re missing an opportunity to catch some of music’s most legendary artists in the comfortable confines of an old Kentucky barn as they spin the stories of the songs and the people that span their careers. Graystone Hills Builders and Dr. Jess Legg of Conroe Dental Health sponsor these shows every 2 weeks and I always enjoy and learn something. Schedules and more at www.realliferealmusic.com.
Jim Lauderdale is one of Nashville’s gentleman songwriters and one of those rare talents you’ve heard, but never quite seen unless you’re really watching. Having 12 songs cut by George Strait, others by Patty Loveless and Soloman Burke and being the host for the Americana Music Awards year after year definitely puts him in that “A” list category of musicians to keep up with. The AMA created a new Artist of the Year category in 2002 and gave him the very first award. That same year he completed his sweep by winning Song of the Year with ‘She’s Looking at Me’. Appearances on Willie Nelson’s 2010 Country Music CD and co-writes with everyone from Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna and bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley are definitely attention-getters.
Opening for Lauderdale was an amazing band called MilkDrive out of Austin which features Noah Jefferies on guitar/vocals, Dennis Ludiker on Mandolin/vocals, Brian Beken on Fiddle/lead vocal and Matt Mefford on double bass. Configured like a bluegrass band they were a natural to back up Lauderdale, but they didn’t stop there. Jeffries is a Lionel Hampton Jazz competition winner, Mefford is a South Austin Jug Band emeritus as are Ludiker and Beken. Ludiker has toured with Asleep at the Wheel and Bekin holds so many fiddle awards I can’t list them all. Their music is grounded in bluegrass traditions, but steps easily into a jazz modality with odd time signatures and ‘how’d they do THAT?’ syncopation. I was hearing a kinship to Kevin Welch/Dead Reckoners/Steel Driver all night long…(hint hint).
Much of Jim’s material came from his latest CD Reason and Rhyme, but as he told the stories of his career he played the songs of those times too. I found myself listening closer and wondering if there is someone Lauderdale DOESN’T know, or is there someone he HASN’T written a song with. I was just as pleasantly surprised this night as I was one night about a year ago when I saw Byron Hill do “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous”, a song he penned which became a hit for Tracy Byrd years ago. (I’m weird..I get off to off the wall stuff every now and then).
About halfway through Lauderdale’s set, MilkDrive joined him and together they got down to some serious bluegrass and country music from Lauderdale’s catalog. It was amazing to see 5 such talented musicians playing together so well for what I found out later, was the first time they’d ever done so. I used to play in an earlier life and I know what it is to jump on stage and play totally unrehearsed like that and they pulled it off seamlessly. The only hint was Jim’s occasional que on a chord progression or what key the upcoming song was in.
An amazing night of music, in a venue that’s second to none, performed by first rate musicians led by the very capable Kyle Hutton. By the way, The Americana Music Association has its annual awards show in Nashville on Oct. 12th through the 15th and Jim will be MC for the 8th straight year. Austin City Limits will re-broadcast the event November 19th.