Releasing two albums in different genres on the same day might seem like a risky move, but Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale makes that feat appear not only effortless but also completely logical. To be fair, country and bluegrass are so closely related that Lauderdale isn't too thinly stretched, and, as a result, the two discs end up complementing each other rather than competing.
By its title, "Country Super Hits Vol. 1" sounds like a retrospective, best-of collection, and certainly Lauderdale would be deserving of such treatment: His songs have been covered by everyone from George Strait ("We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This") to the Dixie Chicks ("Hole in My Head"). Instead, "Super Hits" features new tunes with an old-timey honky-tonk feel, with the plaintive drawl of "Playing on My Heart Strings" and the playful earnestness of "Right Where You Want Me."
By contrast, "Bluegrass" has a twangier feel that is augmented by Lauderdale's traditional backing band (dobro, mandolin, banjo and fiddle). Though he may be a relative newcomer to the genre, he caught up quickly by collaborating on two albums with Ralph Stanley. Without Stanley, "Bluegrass" blurs together a bit, but Lauderdale's take on the style is at its most memorable on his faster-paced songs ("Mighty Lonesome," "Don't Blame the Wrong Guy") or those with choruses drenched in harmony ("Who's Leaving Who").
-- Catherine P. Lewis