Jim Lauderdale/Donna the Buffalo 

Wait 'Til Spring

If you've listened to anything remotely resembling country music in the past ten years, chances are you've heard Jim Lauderdale, the Nashville-based singer/songwriter who has written with Harlan Howard, Kim Richey, and Robert Hunter; had his songs recorded by Buddy Miller, Kelly Willis, Vince Gill, the Dixie Chicks, and George Strait; and sung harmony with Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Charlie Louvin, Dwight Yoakam, and Lucinda Williams.

If his own eight solo albums haven't been distinctive enough to build a commercial following (call them alt.country by default), Lauderdale seems to have recently found his own performing niche. After two collaborations with the legendary Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys (Lost in the Lonesome Pines earned a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album), the prolific Lauderdale has partnered with East Coast festival veterans Donna the Buffalo for his eleventh album, Wait 'Til Spring.

Lauderdale's chameleon-like adaptability, as evidenced by the mélange of artists he's worked with, is both a gift and affliction, and the Buffalo's starry-eyed celebration of all things Americana is often not limiting enough. Wait 'Til Spring, with sideswipes at blues, soul, Cajun, and zydeco, seems to bend over backwards in an effort to cover every square inch of the Buffalo's roots/jam range. Lauderdale's strength, however, lies a couple states northeast of Louisiana. Songs with a suspicion of country -- "Different Kind of Lightning," "That's Not the Way It Works," "This World Is Getting Mean" -- provide the best stage, not only for Lauderdale's pen and voice, but for Donna the Buffalo's atmospheric harmonies. At its peak, Wait 'Til Spring is worth keeping around through the summer.

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