RSVP: 5 with 5 of NCs Finest

Jim Lauderdale

North Carolina singer-songerwriter Jim Lauderdale. |photo courtesy of Scott Simontacchi

North Carolina is full of fine folks doing worthy work. In this series, we kick back for conversation with homegrown, doers, makers, shakers, artisans and music-makers.Jim Lauderdale closes out my series of sit-downs with North Carolina musicians. It is only fitting to finish the sessions off with Lauderdale as we preview Wide Open Bluegrass.Just this past week, on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Country Music Hall of Fame member George Strait (who has recorded 14 of Lauderdale’s songs) presented Lauderdale with the Americana Music Association’s WagonMaster Award, a lifetime achievement honor given to the most valuable contributors to the musical format. The Americana Music Association defines their genre as “contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw.”Lauderdale has lived that explanation. Over the life of his career he has written for, sung with, and produced with everyone from the late, great bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley, to Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Solomon Burke, Patty Loveless, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Elvis Costello, to the inimitable George Jones.Prior to his travels to Tennessee to pick up his most recent honor (he’s a multi-Grammy and Americana Music Association Award winner) I had the chance to talk with Lauderdale as he made a swing through his North Carolina home. You can catch him at Wide Open Bluegrass on the Davie Street Stage on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 9:45 p.m.What is the most distinctive thing about playing in North Carolina?Oh, well there are so many memories. Playing in North Carolina is always a homecoming for me. These are my roots — there’s just something in the air; no matter where the venue is across the state I just feel like I’m home.Is there a particular song or lyric that never fails to move you, and why?I have a clear, distinct memory of going roller skating with my sister in Charlotte and a song came on over the loud speaker that was just magical, it was “I Feel Fine” by The Beatles. The guitar riff and the melody were so life-affirming, and even though I was only 6 years old I was processing that music and it was fun — it just made me feel so alive.OK, along those lines is there a song that makes you roll the windows down and crank up the volume?Typically bluegrass. In my early teens I went to a church retreat in Flat Rock at Bonclarken and I picked up my very first Stanley Brothers album in Hendersonville, it was “Rank Stranger.” I had that same feeling I had at the skating rink, that music was magical and it just made me stop and take notice.How did where you are from shape you as an artist?I think being born in Statesville and living the first five years of my life in Troutman definitely affected my music. My father was a preacher and my mother was a choir director and the director of the Troutman High School Glee Club. I remember hearing and feeling the power of those voices — it primed the pump for being open to melodies, it definitely trained my ear. At home there was always a real diverse selection of music in the background, from gospel, jazz, country to bluegrass — it all informed the music I made eventually.What do you want people to know about your new album?”This Changes Everything” reflects my love affair with country music. This is unapologetically traditional country with a lot of steel guitar — honky-tonk country.For additional tour dates and more information about the new album go to: