By Ross Jones
Photography by Kendall Wilson
Americana icon Jim Lauderdale has returned to the UK this week, performing a much anticipated set with his band The Game Changers at The Long Road Festival this evening (25/8).
Joined by his group of Lillie Mae Rischie, Craig Smith, Frank Rischie, Jay Weaver and more, Lauderdale announced that together, they are working on their first full band record, which will be released in January 2024. During the set, Lauderdale said "I'm having such a great time getting to tour with these incredible musicians".
“I couldn't be happier”, Lauderdale continued, "when I got contacted about coming over and doing a bunch of gigs outside of the United States, they said, "Bring two people with you". I thought, I've got to bring this whole bunch, I want the world to hear these guys and how great they are".
When Lauderdale is backed by the full band, his sets possess quite a Tom Petty vibe; it's loose and funky, as Lauderdale layers his gentle drawl across the songs. The band around him are tight and complementary; their harmonies remaining raw as the guitars trill with melodies not unlike the Allman Brothers. On 'You're Hoggin' My Mind', they excel; delivering a sultry, honky tonk jam that hits as hard as a bluesy Stones B-Side.
The group's syncopation is particularly evident halfway through the peformance, as Lauderdale spontaneously asks the band to pick the next song to peform. Lillie Mae suggests another unreleased cut from the forthcoming full-band effort; a simple, frank song that has the feel of a classic 60s pop hit, especially in its affable and forthright lyricism.
What's most pleasing though is the breadth of Lauderdale's set. 'The Opportunity To Help Somebody Through It' could easily sit on a disco DJ mix, the crowd jiving with contentment as the rain finally starts to cede. "I know it's been raining out there, but nothing's going to dampen our spirits, is it ladies and gentlemen?" Lauderdale exclaims to the crowd.
"We're working on an album as The Game Changers, and this is one Lilie Mae sings on the record", Lauderdale announces before they drift into another new, unreleased track. It's a stirring and beautifully tender song, Lillie's croon yearning across the gently strummed instrumentation. The relationship the group share is especially endearing, Lauderdale and Lillie Mae exchanging encouraging and confident nods in time and appreciation.
Closing the set, Lauderdale ventures into his 1994 classic write, 'Halfway Down', made famous by Patty Loveless. "Thanks to everybody; all of the staff here at The Long Road, there's a lot of people that make this so good for all of us", Lauderdale praised before closing out the set. "You guys enjoy the rest of the night with this fine music going on, and we hope we'll be back real soon over here to play for you again".
It's six years since the North Carolinian has hit the UK shores, his last shows this side of the Atlantic taking place in 2017. Since then, the prolific songwriter has released five albums, including 2021's 9/10 Holler-rated Hope and his 2022 latest, Game Changer.
Having already completed the UK dates of his 2023 tour before The Long Road, Lauderdale travels to Denmark tomorrow (26/8) for Tønder Festival, before heading back to the US for a run of dates in October and November, including an appearance at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion 2023.
Taken from his performance at The Long Road festival in Leicestershire, UK on Friday 25th August, 2023.
For more on The Long Road festival, see below: