"I was pouring whiskey in an empty heart/ when I met Jesus in a bar/ I guess you can't fall too far." - I Met Jesus In A Bar - Leslie Satcher-Jim Lauderdale.

Jim Lauderdale found solace in writing with Leslie Satcher while grieving the death of his father - a North Carolina Presbyterian minister - in 2004.

The duo wrote three songs including I Met Jesus In A Bar for two Lauderdale albums - his 14th and 15th - released simultaneously in November of 2006.

Satcher, a prolific writer from Paris, Texas, sourced the biblical bar song idea and it resonated with Grammy award winner Lauderdale.

"That was Leslie's idea," Lauderdale, 49, revealed of the song, a highlight of wry disc Country Super Hits Vol 1 (Yep-Roc) - all new, never hits, and unlikely to be until cut by mainstream artists.

Lauderdale, who toured here in 2002, has earned hefty royalties from his songs cut by George Strait, Patty Loveless, Dixie Chicks, Mark Chesnutt, Jason McCoy and many more.

"It's an interesting story," Lauderdale says of the birth of the Jesus song.

"During the summer of 2004, I was touring, and my dad became ill. It turned out to be cancer, and he passed away. I kind of stopped everything, and it really hit me hard. I had a writing session with Leslie about six weeks after dad passed away. We wrote one song fairly quickly and she came back in the room and said, 'I've just got this great idea! This idea just came to me!' She had this excitement about her. I said, 'what's the title?" She said, I Met Jesus In A Bar. And I thought, OK, yeah. I thought that would be a great line. And she went, 'No, no. That's what it's about.' She said, 'Just go with me on this. Just trust me.' And we started working on it, and it just all came together. It was just really moving for both of us. I couldn't listen to it or sing it without crying."

They also wrote Who's Leaving Who and There Goes Bessie Brown for Bluegrass (Yep-Roc-Shock).


It has collaborations with Joe Henry on Time's A Looking Glass, John Leventhal on Forever Ends Today and Tony Villanueva on It's So Different.

Jim wrote seven songs solo and reprised a 1997 co-write of Love In The Ruins that was cut by collaborator Buddy Miller.

Lauderdale is keen to make a duet disc with Buddy Miller.

"One reason why I wanted to get both of these albums out this year is that Buddy and I have been talking about doing a duo album for years," Lauderdale explained.

"I've got to have some space for that when that comes out as well. I usually try to have him involved in some way on each release I do. This round, I recorded a song that we'd written together that he's recorded, called Love In The Ruins, and put that on the Bluegrass record."

< Buddy Miller

His love of bluegrass pre-dates his discs with Ralph Stanley by more than a decade.

A duet album with Roland White in 1979 hit the cutting room floor with another Pete Anderson produced relic.

His next album Planet of Love included guest roles by Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris but withered on the vine until Strait ignited a flood of covers.

Lauderdale later cut two CDs with Dr Ralph Stanley - I Feel Like Singing Today and Grammy award winning Lost in the Lonesome Pines.

"With the Bluegrass record, I like to keep myself challenged by writing solo, too," Lauderdale revealed.

"So I have few solo songs on that record that aren't co-writes, and that usually takes me a little longer. It's a much quicker process for me to write with somebody else."

But that's distant history for the singer who played George Jones in the Ryman stage show of Stand By Your Man - the Tammy Wynette Story.

''My first dream was to make bluegrass records,'' said Lauderdale.

''Well, that didn't happen. Then I wanted to move into Hank Williams-style country records and then on subsequent albums add drums, and that was a progression that didn't work out. Nothing worked out like I thought it would.''

Lauderdale hired co-producer Randy Kohrs on dobro and harmony on Bluegrass that also features guitarist Bryan Sutton and plentiful fiddle, mandolin and banjo.


Jim co-wrote 11 tunes with co-producer Odie Blackman on Super Hits - from entrée Honky Tonk Mood Again and Playing On My Heart Strings to You Can't Stop Her.

The finale is She's Got Some Magic Going On - a collaboration with Shawn Camp.

"Odie Blackman, my co-producer on the Country record, and I have enough for a volume two," Lauderdale explains. "We wrote about 44 songs over the course of the year that I recorded with him. It was just kind of a matter of finding the songs that were the right fit and all that. The cover is like a K-Tel kind of thing. Odie and I thought that was funny.''

Many artists including Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, George Strait and Gary Allan have cut Odie's songs.

In 2005 Womack had a hit with Odie song I May Hate Myself in the Morning.

Odie has co-produced with Allan as well.

He and Jim also share writing credits on the title song for Allan's sixth album Tough All Over.

Lauderdale is philosophical about his songs scoring airplay for other artists but not for him.

"Unfortunately, I won't get the country radio airplay myself. But if I was able to, this would have been a collection of my hits. And, perhaps, some other country artist will make hits out of some of those songs."

Although it must have been frustrating at first to see other artists taking his songs to the top of the charts over that.

"I think a long time ago, I was kind of down about it, but then every time somebody would record a song, and it would do well, that really helped to ease the pain," he added.
"Then I didn't have that expectation anymore, so it didn't hurt."

The high powered musical line up includes guitarists Kenny Vaughan, Pat Buchanan and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Camp


It's no surprise Jim is equally comfortable on honky tonk and bluegrass - his country is steeped in the Bakersfield sound and dedicated to the late Buck Owens.

"One of my favourite songs Buck did is Will There Be Sweethearts In Heaven," said
Lauderdale who proves a master of pure country and bluegrass on discs destined to create hits for major artists.

"He passed last summer," Lauderdale recalled.

"He's really gonna be missed. I first met him out in California when he was doing a record called Hot Dog."

"Later, he flew me with him to Austin, Texas several years ago. They had these Buck Owens birthday bashes - I guess it was about 10 years ago. So I got to sing harmony with him, and that was a real career highlight. And then I went to his club the Crystal

Palace in Bakersfield for his birthdays. He'd have a lot of folks come out and sing.

Dwight Yoakam and Marty Stuart were there several times. He was a very gracious guy - just larger than life. He definitely filled up the room when he came in."

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