Jim Lauderdale – Every Second Counts
Too many people with good ears have said too much good about Jim Lauderdale for this, his second major label offering, to be altogether representative of his talent. Still, since he shares production credit with Dusty Wakeman, it’s hard to argue that Every Second Counts is not the record he wanted to make. And it’s even hard to argue against taking a shot at the big money represented by New County Radio.
That said, Every Second Counts …. uh …. doesn’t count for much. These are mostly smooth, unchallenging songs, safe and unexciting like breakfast at Denny’s. The ability of tracks like “It’s Time When It’s Time”, “Don’t Build Your World Around It” or “Ready to Ramble” (a Hank Jr.-style rocker) to fit seamlessly onto a restrictive radio format seems a shallow virtue. That’s the problem: They’re shallow songs, big arena gestures without any of the tender nuance, the details of real life, that makes country music special.
Maybe that all seems unduly harsh, the kind of diatribe punk-rock traditionalists unleash against major-label sellouts. Well, it is, sort of. But this is hardly an objection to large corporations (no, that’s a whole different argument). It’s the convolutions artists feel obliged to put their music through, or the ways in which they’re persuaded to change, that sells short the substance of their work. And isn’t the work worth more than the money, in the end?
Anyway, it’s only worth arguing over if it matters. For a few tracks at the end of the disc, finally separated from his electronic friends, there’s a hint at what kind of singer and songwriter Lauderdale might be if he weren’t trying to make the star machine work. And they do matter, songs like “I’m Still Learning to Crawl” and the bluesy “Bluebell”. It can’t be an accident that the mostly acoustic numbers work best, can it?