For years, Jim Lauderdale planned on making a Texas album. His backing band is based out of Austin, and he’s co-written with many of the state’s top songsmiths—but touring, hosting two nationally syndicated radio shows, and other recording projects kept the idea simmering on the back burner. That changed this past June when heavy rain across the Hill Country washed out roads and forced venues to cancel their weekend gigs. Lauderdale, whose Friday evening set at Austin’s Continental Club was cancelled, suddenly found himself with a rare stretch of free time.
“This might seem crazy,” Lauderdale recalls telling his band, “but I’m here and since everybody’s usually so busy, let’s go ahead and try to get this recording session together.”
Lauderdale booked a full day at Arlyn Studios and went to work. The impromptu session proved fruitful, with eleven tracks making the final cut for This Changes Everything, his twenty-ninth studio album due out September 30. He wrote or co-wrote every song on the album, picking ones with Texas ties from his catalog.
“I wanted [this album] to sound like something you’d hear a band playing at Gruene Hall or the Continental Club or a Texas dancehall,” Lauderdale told Texas Monthly. “I wanted there to be some kind of Texas connection with each song.”
Among the most notable of these Texas nods are two previously unreleased tracks Lauderdale wrote with Bruce Robison, and the record’s finale, “Drive,” which was co-authored with Hayes Carll, who used the same song to kick off his latest album.
Another stand-out is Lauderdale’s take on “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This,” a song most know from George Strait’s 1998 LP, One Piece at a Time. Although the King of Country rode the single to a top five hit on Billboard‘s country chart, it was Lauderdale who penned the tune. Strait has recorded fourteen of Lauderdale’s songs, a relationship that started in the early nineties when two of the Nashville-based songwriter’s demos were chosen for the Pure Country soundtrack, Strait’s lone foray into Hollywood.
“That really got the ball rolling for me,” Lauderdale said. “Then other people started recording my songs. I eventually started making my own independent records, and I really feel like if it wasn’t for [Strait] recording my songs, I would not have been able to do that.”
It’s fitting, then, that this September Strait will present Lauderdale with the WagonMaster Award—a lifetime achievement award named after Porter Waggoner—at the Americana Honors & Awards show in Nashville. Nine days later, Lauderdale will release his musical love letter to Texas.