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Jim Lauderdale Returns to His North Carolina Roots

Jim Lauderdale

Press Photo Courtesy of Yep Roc Records

Before making his enduring impact in Nashville, prolific singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale grew up in rural North Carolina, where his early exposure to music revolved around bluegrass.

He revisits those roots with the new album “When Carolina Comes Home Again,” which was released on March 6. 

For Lauderdale—a versatile Americana artist with more than 30 albums to his credit and songs recorded by the likes of George Strait, the Dixie Chicks, and Blake Shelton—the new effort is a collaborative look back at formative musical experiences in his old home state. The straight-ahead bluegrass record features contributions from some of North Carolina’s most accomplished picking outfits, including Steep Canyon Rangers, Balsam Range, and Town Mountain. 

“North Carolina has such a long and important heritage in bluegrass music,” Lauderdale said in a statement on his upcoming album. “Since it’s where I’m originally from and where I started playing bluegrass, it seemed right to go back to my roots in bluegrass there and collaborate with musicians in that area. There’s just something in the atmosphere there. Hearing bluegrass in different areas and settings in North Carolina, the music is just there in the air. The first bluegrass festival I ever went to was Union Grove when I was 14, and it blew my mind. The music got into my bones, and I just had to get a banjo.”

Lauderdale indulges those youthful influences throughout the album’s 13 tracks, including “Cackalacky,” a co-write with Si Kahn, and the title track, penned with John Oates (of Hall & Oates fame). Lauderdale wrote the album’s lead single, “As a Sign,” with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who passed away last year. The hard-driving foot-stomper is propelled by deft string work and poetic lyrics about learning to let lost love go. Lauderdale and Hunter had a fruitful writing partnership that yielded six albums of songs released together, starting with 2004’s “Headed for the Hills.”  

Lauderdale will pay tribute to his work with Hunter by playing a mini-set of songs the two friends wrote together at upcoming shows. He returns to North Carolina this spring to perform multiple sets at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, N.C., on April 24 and 25.

In addition to helping Lauderdale with his new album, Steep Canyon Rangers unveiled a fresh release last month. “Be Still Moses,” which also arrived on March 6, is another team effort between North Carolina musicians, as the Grammy-winning string band tapped the Asheville Symphony to help them rework some of their best-known songs, including “Radio” and “Call the Captain.” Philadelphia soul singers Boyz II Men also appear, adding uplifting vocals to the title track. Steep Canyon plays a hometown show in Asheville at the Salvage Station on May 8. 

Wheels of Soul Rolls On

Tedeschi Trucks Band have announced dates for their annual Wheels of Soul summer tour. The multi-band summer trek will feature support from Alabama soul-rock outfit St. Paul & the Broken Bones and Nashville singer-piano player Gabe Dixon, a current touring member of Tedeschi Trucks Band who will start each evening with his own trio.

The headliners, the versatile 12-piece soul-rock crew led by the husband-and-wife duo of guitarist Derek Trucks and blues singer-guitarist Susan Tedeschi, will begin the sixth consecutive running of Wheels of Soul in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, on June 26. The five-week tour then touches parts of the Southeast, Northeast, and Midwest before concluding with a two-night stand at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 31 and August 1. Regional highlights include stops at PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, N.C., on July 10; Walnut Creek in Raleigh, N.C., on July 11; and the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Ga., on July 24-25.

Shovels & Rope Hosts High Water Festival 

Shovels & Rope—the edgy roots-rock duo led by the husband-and-wife team of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst—will once again host the High Water Festival in their home city of Charleston, S.C. The growing event at Riverfront Park has quickly become a must-attend in the roots music world, this year featuring headlining sets from Wilco, Brittany Howard, and Nathaniel Rateliff. Additional acts on the bill include Mavis Staples, Andrew Bird, Drive-By Truckers, Sharon Van Etten, and Angel Olsen, and beyond the music the festival also places focus on the coastal city’s thriving food scene, offering cuisine from the area’s award-winning chefs.

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