August 01, 1994 12:00 PM

Jim Lauderdale

This won’t help remove that kiss-of-death label “critics’ favorite” (read “commercial flop”) that singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale already wears like a noose, but here goes: Pretty Close to the Truth is the best country album in the past two years. Actually “country” is a misnomer. “Roots-pop” comes closer. The last time ballads as achingly melodic as “Why Do I Love You?” were around, Lennon and McCartney were writing them. And on this one, Lauderdale’s upward-swooping vocal even eerily evokes Lennon’s falsetto. Nor is Lauderdale afraid to holler and bawl his guts out; on “When the Devil Starts Crying,” is it Satan, or just another guy his woman’s falling for? It hardly matters—the singer wails as if he can see the flames of Hades. (Atlantic)

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