Larry Cordle has been putting out exceptionally fine recordings for a long time and we’ve come to expect the best from him. He has an uncanny ability to turn a phrase that fits exactly right, makes you laugh, makes you think, and paints a perfect picture in your mind. He’s also always been able to attract top-notch musical talent for support, and he’s joined here by Carl Jackson, Randy Kohrs, Chris Harris, Clay Hess, Shad Cobb, Steve Thomas, Mike Anglin, and more. Yet for all of this, Pud Marcum’s Hangin’ still surpasses our highest expectations.
Every song on the CD is co-written by Cordle and someone else (renowned songwriters Larry Shell, Connie Leigh, Ronnie Bowman among them), and they reflect the highest level of songwriting craftsmanship; lyrics, melodies, rhythms all beautifully and creatively made. There’s not a single strained rhyme or lyric to be heard, not one word out of place—all performed with great skill and obvious talent.
These are songs cast with memorable characters that you can see with perfect clarity by just listening to their stories, many about meeting untimely ends: the late Willy Johnson (he was poisoned), the late Pud Marcum (hanged), Uncle Bob (…he weighed 300 pound and wore bibbed overalls), Greasy (…but his real name was Burt, at least that’s what it said on his blue Sunoco shirt), the unmourned Bad Burch Wilson (drowned…he’d been seen with Mandy Brown the night he disappeared), Delbert Meeks (…just a sorry sot, too dang lazy to hold down a job). The stories are loaded with lyrical gems: I’m hope in a hopeless place (from “Hello My Name Is Coal”); There’s an angel on his shoulder, and the devil by his side (“Angel On His Shoulder”); He kept a Maytag full of Miller Lite in the shade of a cottonwood (“Shade Tree Mechanic”); Sometimes a man takes a drink, but sometimes a drink takes the man (“Sometimes A Man Takes A Drink”). Like all great narratives, each song is an experience to be savored again and again.
These are story songs that are like conversations set to music, creating compelling poetry from simple words. It sounds easy when Cordle does it, but it should be precious to us because it’s so rarely done this well. Pud Marcum’s Hangin’ is an absolute masterpiece and Larry Cordle is a true songwriting treasure. Don’t miss this one. (Mighty Cord Records, P.O. Box 792, Hendersonville, TN 37075, www.larrycordle.com.) AWIII