For music fans and critics alike‚ the word "supergroup" is often synonymous with overstated potential‚ clashing egos‚ and disappointment. On Honey Songs‚ Jim Lauderdale brought nothing less than a supergroup to the studio‚ but you won't be disappointed with the results.
Anchored by former Elvis Presley guitarist and Telecaster legend James Burton‚ the Dream Players include Burton's fellow Elvis bandmates Glen D. Hardin on piano and Ron Tutt on drums‚ bassist Garry Tallent from the E Street Band‚ and Flying Burrito Brother Al Perkins on steel. On Honey Songs‚ the Dream Players do what true musical badasses have always done-subsumed their own egos for the good of the team. It's not about flame-throwing solos. It's about music.
That doesn't mean there aren't some rough spots. The tune "Honeysuckle‚ Honeypie‚" opens the album with a vamp that might have called Elvis to the stage back in 1964. Yet the tune is more of a sketch than a fully realized composition. "Stingray‚" the penultimate cut‚ has a similar feel.
But for the most part‚ Honey Songs gives Lauderdale fans what they've come to expect- rock-solid country‚ and limit-pushing pop. The band really settles in on tracks 3-4‚ where the cautionary country tale "Hittin' It Hard" gives way to the sublimely beautiful ballad "It's Finally Sinking In‚" with Glen Hardin's piano and Steve Sheehan's acoustic guitar cascading around the melody with confidence and grace.
Lauderdale is a musical omnivore‚ and that's on full display‚ most evidently in the back-to-back pairing of "Borrow Some Summertime" and "The Daughter of Majestic Sage." The former is a pop masterpiece-think Bachrach with a whiskey back. "Majestic Sage" is an opiated dreamscape that wouldn't be out of place in Lauderdale's collaborations with Robert Hunter. The album's closer‚ "I'm Almost Back‚" features Emmylou Harris on vocals. It's a stunner‚ the kind of classic ballad that reminds us that Lauderdale-and contemporary country-are capable of truth as well as beauty.