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Jim Lauderdale & the Dream Players 

Honey Songs (Yep Roc)

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Singer-songwriter Lauderdale has won two Grammys, backed Lucinda Williams, and recorded an album with bluegrass icon Ralph Stanley. But mainstream music fans have no idea who he is. Maybe it's because he has little use for corn or melodrama in his songs. Or maybe it's because his voice — deep and smooth, it often recalls Hank Williams' twangy drawl — is neither pretty nor coarse. Plus, Lauderdale is too spare and raw to fit into any conventional radio format. Yet Honey Songs ably steers from swaggering southern funk ("Honey Suckle Honey Pie") to George Jones-style honky-tonk ("I Hope You're Happy") to the pensive "Borrow Some Summertime," which sounds like a country cousin of War's "Summer."

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