Larry Cordle / Lonesome Standard Time

Took Down and Put Up

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Larry Cordle has the best of both possible worlds. His songs have been cut by folks like Ricky Skaggs, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and George Strait, providing him with a comfortable income. With his band Lonesome Standard Time -- on this album Booie Beach, lead guitar; Kim Gardner, dobro; Mike Anglin, electric and standup bass, baritone vocals; Chris Davis, mandolin, tenor vocals; and Kristin Scott Benson on banjo -- he plays the "traditional" bluegrass he loves. Traditional is in quotes because Cordle is an artist who's able to write tunes that fit onto country, Americana, and folk play lists as easily as they do on the bluegrass charts. If you know him at all, it may be for his song "Murder on Music Row," an indictment of the country music business that ironically became a big country hit when it was cut by Alan Jackson and George Strait. But Cordle isn't a one-hit wonder. He's been playing and picking traditional (although mostly self-written) bluegrass music for most of his life, and is dedicated to keeping the form vital. Like Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley before him, he tracks down great young talents and gives them a leg up while providing himself with the stellar backing that Lonesome Standard Time has become known for. "Hole in the Ground" is a coal-mining song in the tradition of Merle Travis, and while Cordle is modest about its virtues, it can hold its head up with the best work of Travis. The band's vocal harmonies and the evocative work of Benson's banjo and guest artist Jenee Fleenor's fiddle give the song its appropriately hopeless vibe. "Song for Keith," a co-write with Randy Scaggs, is a tribute to Keith Whitley, a country/bluegrass singer who died at the age of 34, just as his career was taking off. It's a traditional country lament dominated again by banjo, fiddle, and Cordle's aching tenor vocal. "Rough Around the Edges" is a Cordle co-write with J.P. Pennington and Les Taylor of Exile. It was a big hit for Travis Tritt, who joins Cordle on this bluegrass version that features Davis on mandolin and Gardner's dobro. "B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Blues)" has been cut by many singers but hasn't been a hit yet. It's a fine country blues that would have been great in the hands of Jim Reeves. "Old Cheater's Blues" is another tune that could be a mainstream hit, a cheatin' waltz with a clever lyric and great melody. Benson's muted banjo, Gardner's dobro, and Beach's lead guitar give the song its soul. Other standouts include "'67 Chevy Malibu," "The Hero of the Creek," a song praising the simple life, saved from cliché by Cordle's lyrical skills and bright melody, and "A Visit With an Uncle," a song about a deceased relative, simply sung by Cordle backed by a single acoustic guitar. Took Down and Put Up isn't anything fancy, but fans of great pickin' and solid songwriting will find Cordle delivering the goods again.

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