Quite aside from his standing as a prolific singer songwriter, Jim Lauderdale’s reputation as best dressed artist in Nashville is beyond dispute. He most certainly cuts a dash taking the stage this evening togged out in a multi coloured Liberty print Dandy & Rose shirt and light green embroidered Manual trousers. The stage in a concert hall can be a lonely and unforgiving platform for an artist to perform solo but Lauderdale breezes through his set this evening accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, customary confidence and good humour.
Since his debut release in 1991 Lauderdale has released no fewer than twenty-eight albums, collaborating and working with the cream of country, bluegrass, roots, soul and rock including Rodney Crowell, Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, Robert Hunter, Nick Lowe, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Buddy Miller.
Tonight’s setlist includes a selection of many of those collaborations and a selection of songs from his latest album London Southern, which was actually written five years ago but only finally surfaced earlier this year. The album was a labour of love, (excuse the Nick Lowe pun), explains Lauderdale later in the show, having been recorded with Nick Lowe’s band and production team.
Opening this evening with Three Way Conversation from his 1994 recording Pretty Close To The Truth and continuing with Midnight Will Become Day and The Hummingbirds from the album of the same name it’s clear that the show will be a trawl through his imposing back catalogue rather than concentrating on his latest album. This Changes Everything, released in 2016, found Lauderdale revisiting his love of the Texas ‘Red Dirt’ Country sound and the title track comes next followed by Drive from the same album, a stunning co-write with the young Texan troubadour Hayes Caryll.
Lauderdale refers to his opportunity to work with bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys as one of the musical highlights of his career and proceeds to play Lost In the Lonesome Pines and Feel Like Signing Today, both being title tracks of the two albums recorded with Stanley. It’s difficult to perform bluegrass songs solo acoustic but he manages to do both songs more than justice before an impressive a Capella delivery of the gospel song Like Him.
He seeks out audience requests, "songs that I’ve written please, no Wonderwall or even Cosi Fan Tutte given our surroundings in this beautiful Hall!" The King of Broken Hearts, a song inspired by two of his heroes George Jones and Gram Parsons, is requested and duly delivered.
At this stage Lauderdale explains that’s its twenty-five years since he first played Dublin, "my favourite city to tour", recalling that the gig was in Bad Bobs and he was accompanied by his band Buddy Miller, Donald Lindley, Dusty Wakeman and Gurf Morlix. The response to that show, and in particular the praise by journalist Lisa Hand and musicophile Steve Averill, was a hugely encouraging and a significant confidence booster for his career going forward, adds Lauderdale.
Two songs from London Southern are included, both dedicated to the producers on the album Neil Brockbank who passed away earlier this year and Robert Trehern who died in 2015. The beautiful ballad Sweet Time is first up and followed I Love You More, possibly one of the strongest songs he has written to date. Delivered with immaculate discipline it’s one of the highlights of a most enjoyable set by an artist that always delivers whether in a solo show or accompanied by a band.
Finishing his slot with Headed ForThe Hills, co-written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, he insists the audience help him out by singing the chorus concluding what has been a typical engaging, entertaining and delightful Jim Lauderdale show.
Review by Declan Culliton
BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN
A singer-songwriter and performing artist of some renown with a career that has spanned the decades; indeed, it is 27 years since her debut release in 1990. Of course, she was already active before this release and has written for a who’s who of major artists, in addition to releasing her own work. The names of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Crystal Gayle, Martina McBride, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Trisha Yearwood and Faith Hill are just a sample of the talent she has written for and her list of song-writing collaborations runs just as deep and too numerous to mention.
Filling in for the original artist Rodney Crowell who was unable to travel, Beth takes the stage with her trusted accompanist Ruth Trimble who plays bass and keys in addition to harmony vocals. In a set that ran for 13 songs Beth puts in a commanding performance with favourites from her song catalogue along with four new songs from a future release.
Ruth Trimble is invited to play one of her songs and sits at the grand piano to perform Goodbye, a beautiful track from her debut release. She shows all the reasons why Beth chose her as a touring companion with a fine performance that showcases Ruth’s beautiful voice and melodic touch on the keys.
Beth exudes a strong confidence on stage and chats easily between songs with stories about the writing process, relationships, touring and the current state of things. While not specifically talking about the situation in American politics, she does make reference to a lack of empathy and grace before singing the Paul Simon classic American Tune; a most appropriate and classy statement to highlight where her feelings lie. It is her ability to sing from the heart that separates Beth out from many of her contemporaries and her powerful delivery is utterly convincing on both guitar and piano.
This Kiss, Sand And Water, How We Love and I Find Your Love are all received with great enthusiasm from the audience and Beth includes a song from her recent collaboration with Olivia Newton John and Amy Sky, Stone In My Pocket. She also sings a song written for Willie Nelson back in 1989, There’s Nothing I Can Do About It Now, adding great colour in the last verse by mimicking both Willie and Bob Dylan’s vocal delivery – both carried out with great aplomb.
Her final song of the evening is taken from an astronomy project she was involved with and is the gentle message that light exists everywhere across the Universe. The song is called There Is No Darkness and Beth leaves the stage to a standing ovation which is richly deserved. Beth Nielson Chapman stands at the pinnacle of her art as an accomplished artist of great insight and maturity. Her gift of communication is something to hold close and treasure.
Review by Paul McGee Photography by Ronnie Norton