During the first months of the pandemic, Jim Lauderdale was a little numb.
In fact, he said, it was more like a shock of shells.
“I felt so weird,” the legendary songwriter admitted in a phone call last month from his home in Nashville. “Like everyone else, I didn’t really play much music unless it was some sort of perk and someone asked me for a song, for me to very awkwardly make a home video.”
Over time, Lauderdale became inspired. Before the pandemic shut down his world, he recorded a country album and wrote a bunch of songs that didn’t quite fit.
But there was a hint of hope in these songs and others he was inspired to write, feelings of reassurance and a sense of “everything will be fine” flowing from his pen.
Lauderdale, who will perform with Tucson’s Rhythm and Roots to Hotel Congress on Saturday, May 14, initially wanted to rush the project to streaming platforms. He said he felt the urgency to spread a more optimistic message at a time when hope was scarce for many people.
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“I remember saying (to his manager), this record, I want to call it ‘Hope’ and it has to come out like immediately because of these times we’re going through,” recalls Lauderdale, 65, whose songs have been recorded by George Strait, Blake Shelton, Patty Loveless, the Dixie Chicks, Ralph Stanley and others. “I thought at that time that this (the pandemic) was something that we would be done in four or five months. And of course it continued. »
His manager reigned over Lauderdale, convincing him that what he had created deserved a full record. This pandemic, he told Lauderdale, was not going to be a flash in the pan.
“He said, ‘I hate to say it, but I think there’s going to be a lot of tough times and I wouldn’t worry about rushing it,’ Lauderdale said. “I’m glad we took our time I tend to want to rush things.
The extra time allowed Lauderdale to reconnect with Robert Hunter’s widow, Maureen, an artist who created the illustrations for the album cover and liner notes.
Lauderdale and Hunter, the longtime lyricist of The Grateful Dead who died in 2019, had written more than 100 songs together in the last decade of Hunter’s life. “Hope” includes one such song, “Memory,” which Lauderdale said he sent Hunter after recording it. When Hunter never responded, Lauderdale learned of his death.
Saturday’s concert at the Congress Plaza Hotel, 311 E. Congress St., will be Lauderdale’s first in Tucson since performing with Ralph Stanley in 2001. The show, featuring Lauderdale and his full band, begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $28. up to $40 hotelcongress.com.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at [email protected] On Twitter @Starburch