The grass is blue

Writing hits for the Dixie Chicks has given Jim Lauderdale his own wide open space

And now Lauderdale has made a record with his hero. "It's hard for me to believe it happened," he says. "He's a very gracious, kind, funny guy." One could say much the same of Lauderdale. His current plans call for him and fellow alt-country hero Buddy Miller to cut a record together in the spring.

"So I've been writing for that, and my next record. And then I'm going to be touring on the West Coast with Ralph in February, so I'm trying to come up with a bunch of stuff, so if I get enough stuff when we're out there, maybe I can pop into a studio somewhere. Because I want to keep my bluegrass output up. I've been trying to make a bluegrass record since I was a teenager, and now that I've finally gotten the chance to do one, I want to keep up a regular output."

And even though Lauderdale never exactly comes out and says it, his generosity, modesty, and kind words for others belie a wise knowledge of how his bread is kharmically buttered. He's had country chart hits without losing his credibility. He's gotten to make the records he wants to make. He's heard George Jones sing one of his songs, become a pal of Buck Owens, and made a record with Ralph Stanley. So does it amaze him that his heroes are now like his peers?

"Well, I don't consider them my peers, but it is unbelievable. It is just really fun to do a few gigs with Ralph. I finally got to do the Opry the first time the week before last, with Ralph," he notes, accenting the fact that he hadn't yet played the Opry on his own, "and that was really meaningful. It's just hard to believe it's real."

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