George Jones was the king of heartbreak. But with his demise in 2013, Jim Lauderdale, the crown prince, could very well take the throne. However, it’s not as simple as a mere coronation ceremony. It’s a test of mettle, of experience, and of the songs. With a solo career spanning from 1986 to 2017, Lauderdale has the experience, and as evidenced by London Southern, he has a firm grasp on the songs. However, the sceptre just about slips away.   A twisted sceptre carved from southern oak. Lauderdale is a two time Grammy winner. That may be the problem. 

To truly be crowned the king of heartbreak, a certain rawness is required. Not a Stooges-esque rawness. But an emotional rawness.

Which is absent from the trash that passes for country in the 21st century. Lauderdale is far from the likes of that trash, which does put him closer to the outlaws of yore. However, an outlaw he ain’t.

While the slickness of the production does take away from the rawness, and the merging of such all-American genres as soul and country mostly seems unfocused. There’s a lot more to it than that.

He simply doesn’t sound like he means it.

He’s a country crooner. Nothing wrong with that. But if you’re gonna croon, croon with feeling.

Jones could do it. Sinatra (different type of thing I know) could definitely do it. The way those people got inside their songs and made you believe them was truly a magical thing. And Lauderdale doesn’t quite cut it. If you’re gonna be the next “king of heartbreak,” then break a few hearts.

Not far off so he isn’t. But far enough.

The quality of the songs is quite high alright. But the passion’s not there. It sounds like, in all honesty, like he’s going for the Grammy.

Wanting awards and recognition is not a bad thing. It shows ambition and drive. But, when you base your art around those awards, when you mould it to fit what appears to be what the various committees want, you’re doing yourself an injustice.

In this case, it’s a very inoffensive injustice. Lauderdale is keeping it safe. We don’t need safe right now. It’s dangerous times. We need some dangerous tunes. A little bit of Sympathy For The Devil is called for. And that is not to be found on London Southern. If you merely want good quality songs, then it’s for you. You want something more? Something with a bit of  LIFE? Then look elsewhere.

James Fleming

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