Most successful as a songwriter–his tunes have been recorded by George Strait and Vince Gill as well as rockers like Dave Edmunds and John Mayall–Jim Lauderdale proves on his new album, Pretty Close to the Truth, that he’s a top-notch performer as well. His 1991 debut, Planet of Love, produced by Rodney Crowell and John Leventhal, aimed straight at mainstream Nashville. A solid effort with strong melodies and effortless singing, it nevertheless smothered the noncountry aspects of Lauderdale’s vibrant personality and–like many Nashville records–flopped. The new album was recorded in Los Angeles with Dusty Wakeman, an adept roots-music producer perhaps best known for his fine job on the most recent Lucinda Williams record. With the help of superb steel guitarist Greg Leisz and Williams alumni Gurf Morlix on guitar and Donald Lindley on drums, Lauderdale has crafted an album that lets his songs breathe. The gorgeous “Why Do I Love You?” masterfully frames Lauderdale’s soul impulses; his deeply felt, full-throated bluesiness comes through on “When the Devil Starts Crying,” while a tune like the lilting “Grace’s Song” demonstrates his dazzling pop intuition. Since Lauderdale applies an organic approach to his style shifting, eclecticism never overshadows his strong personality. This show is solo, so there’ll be ample opportunity to revel in his powerful singing and the striking purity of his writing. Friday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Reisig & Taylor.