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Jim Lauderdale and Jaime Wyatt Look to the Past and the Future at Exit/In | The Spin

Jim Lauderdale at Exit In-4.jpg

Jim Lauderdale

As the sun set on Friday, Jim Lauderdale took the stage at Exit/In and held court. Throughout the week, one of Nashville’s most prolific industry vets had played the part of unofficial AmericanaFest ambassador as he has for decades; he’d appeared as a guest during at least two other shows, and now it was his turn to take the spotlight for a set of his own. Clad in a cerulean Western suit spangled with rhinestones, Lauderdale showcased tunes from all corners of his vast catalog, now more than 30 albums deep and spanning more than 40 years.

Jim Lauderdale at Exit In-15.jpg

Jim Lauderdale

By the time he got to “King of Broken Hearts,” the beloved country staple covered by Ringo Starr and George Strait, Lauderdale had once again made a strong case for why he’s considered a founding father of Americana. He and his band seamlessly blended rhythmic rock and slide guitar with bass lines that are — simply put — funky. The set was an effortless sampling of the wide range of music that you might classify as country, folk or rock depending on the context but has been referred to as Americana since the late 1990s.

Played to an audience with a great deal of gray hair, the set also showed off how much gravity Lauderdale can carry gracefully. He spoke at length about close friendships with legends like his longtime running partner Buddy Miller, who was recognized during Wednesday’s Americana Honors and Awards ceremony with a special lifetime achievement award given by Robert Plant. Near the end of his set, Lauderdale brought up another sometime collaborator, the multi-talented Lillie Mae. Lauderdale mentioned that the outstanding singer-songwriter-fiddler makes him think of a young George Jones. The seasoned entertainer ended his set with a shoutout to writing partner Sara Duga and an apology for all the songs he didn’t get to play that night. There are a lot.

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Jaime Wyatt

It was hard to tell that Jaime Wyatt, who appeared decked out in a cool silky paisley suit of her own, is a comparatively recent addition to Nashville’s country music landscape, with the natural way she sings about whiskey, heartbreak and much more besides. Amid preparations to follow up Neon Cross — her powerful 2020 LP produced by Shooter Jennings that reflects on a season of big changes in her life, including coming out and getting sober — Wyatt brought a stellar touring band to Exit/In, with whom she’s gearing up for a cross-country road trip. Guitarist Ryan Hartman showed off with few precise solos and creative use of a (presumably) empty Bud Light bottle as a slide. Joshy Soul, an L.A. artist with a growing body of his own solo work, flew in for the performance and dazzled on keys.

Wyatt stole Soul’s spot at the keyboard for “Sweet Mess,” the lead-off ballad from Neon Cross, and she leaned on the crowd-pleasing “Wasco” for a finale, a throwback to 2017’s Felony Blues that had Wyatt singing “ain’t nobody going to tell me who to love.” There was a symbolic element to her set following a longstanding talent like Jim Lauderdale — she’s living proof that Americana has bench depth to spare, with relative newcomers who are just as capable as the legends.

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