In an era when an album every two years is the norm for artists, Jim Lauderdale has remained consistently, insistently prolific, releasing an album a year for the past 20 years with just four exceptions — and the two most recent of those, 2012 and 2013, brought two and three new Lauderdale offerings, respectively. He keeps the pedal to the floor on I’m a Song, an ambitious double album featuring co-writes with the likes of Bobby Bare and Elvis Costello and vocal guests including Patty Loveless and Lee Ann Womack.
The latter half of Lauderdale’s career has brought frequent collaborations with the likes of bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and jam band Donna the Buffalo, but he replants his flag firmly in old-school country turf here. He turns on his best Buck Owens for the instantly memorable “Doin’ Time in Bakersfield,” while “You’ve Got a Way All Yours” and “I Wish You Loved Me” find Lauderdale sounding a lot like George Jones, for whom he wrote the timeless “King of Broken Hearts” on his 1991 debut disc.
It’s fitting, then, that a rerecorded “King of Broken Hearts” appears near the end of the set. Lauderdale does reach toward the edges a few times — the apocalyptic “End of the World Rag,” the atmospheric “Hope and Find,” the Beatlesque “The World Is Waiting Below” — but mostly this is a fastball down the middle for those raised on the classic country hits of yesteryear.