Braver Newer World
, Jimmie Dale Gilmore's 1996 follow-up to his Grammy-nominated 1993 masterpiece Spinning 'Round the Sun
, was a disaster. Gilmore's idea of taking a disparate collection of songs other people wrote and making an album out of them fell flatter than your mom's first attempt at a soufflé. So why did he chart the same course on his latest album, One Endless Night
? Maybe he just wanted to prove he could do it right. Maybe it was because he had production assistance from session man Buddy Miller, more than likely the most underrated talent in country music today (Miller could make Shania Twain sound authentic). In any event, things have a fluidity on One Endless Night
that was absent from its predecessor. Whether it's the Grateful Dead's "Ripple," John Hiatt's "Your Love Is My Rest," ex-bandmate Butch Hancock's "Banks of the Guadalupe," or a fuzzy electric guitar version of the folk classic "Darcy Farrow," it works. If there's an exception, it's the 54-year-old West Texas native's version of "Mack the Knife" that's simply out of Miller's reach.
If there's a question about this album, his sixth, it's why Gilmore covers other artists' material. He's written plenty of great songs himself and has made whole albums of them that have drawn critical hurrahs. Yet Gilmore regards himself more as an interpreter than a troubadour. Even Spinning 'Round the Sun had only four of his own songs, and One Endless Night contains just two tunes he co-wrote (one with Hal Ketchum and the title track with David Hammond). But Gilmore has never taken a conventional approach to his career. He departed the biz in 1972 and joined a Zen Buddhist commune in Colorado. He collaborated with grunge rockers Mudhoney in 1994 and tried his hand as a film actor for a small role in The Big Lebowski two years ago. He left Elektra records to start his own label, Windcharger (a division of Rounder), last year. But like Emmylou Harris, Dwight Yoakam, and Willie Nelson, Gilmore follows his own muse to places where conventional wisdom says he should fear to tread.