Pud Marcum's Hangin'

Larry Cordle

Mightycord, 2012


REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Larry Cordle's songwriting has long been recognized as exemplary in the bluegrass field. He practices a style of storytelling songwriting that is difficult to do well, yet he pulls it off prolifically. In just a few lines, he is able to weave a relatable tale of some homespun moral that usually fully embodies the values of traditional Appalachian culture.  Cordle's 2012 release, Pud Marcum's Hangin', is an album that is simply fun to listen to. Though he has been identifying it in the Americana genre, for all intents and purposes it is a bluegrass album.  Ranging from stories about eastern Kentuckians to political themes, Cordle stays true to his roots with few frills.

The first track "Justice For Willy," the title track, and "The Death of Bad Burch Wilson" are quintessential story songs that weave around the murder theme. "Willy" puts you right in the middle of a funeral in which Willy was killed by his widow and before the service is over she is arrested by the local law and sent off to prison.  "Pud Marcum's Hangin'" similarly accounts the story of an murder from generations past for which Pud Marcum was wrongfully hanged, and in “Bad Burch” Larry leaves you with the uneasy feeling that you are in the presence of a murderer. nbtc__dv_250

"Uncle Bob Got Religion" and "Shade Tree Mechanic" are two of the best songs on the album and excellent examples of the storytelling craft Cordle practices. "Uncle Bob" is one that will leave a smile as it blends the story telling verses with a camp meeting/revival style chorus as we learn of Larry's uncle who had once been involved in all manner of sin and one night suddenly receives a mountain man's equivalent of Paul's conversation on the road to Damascus.  "Shade Tree Mechanic" evokes the stereotypes of a yard full of junk cars, but introduces the listener to a lovable sounding mechanic who can fix anything despite having no literacy or education and is probably not sober either.

The politically themed songs are not of the Bob Dylan anti-war protest variety but like the rest of the album are firmly planted in the challenges of central Appalachia. "Hello My Name Is Coal" touches on one of Appalachia's current hot button issues. Like it or not, coal is a major economic driver in the region. And while many would like to leave coal in the preverbal dust, it is still a huge supplier of electricity in much of the US. So, aptly, the song juxtaposes the love/hate relationship many have with the black fuel. "Brown Check" is a humorous social commentary on welfare cheats who are too lazy to hold a job and feign injury to receive disability benefits. Finally, "America Where Have You Gone?" is a wide ranging lament of the deterioration of old fashioned values.

There are other excellent songs on the album including the beautiful "Molly," which has also been performed by the Lonesome River Band, and "Sometimes a Man Takes A Drink," which is the closest Cordle comes to a mainstream country sound. All in all, Pud Marcum's Hangin' shows a fine artist at work and culls the traditions, life and culture of Appalachian life into an album that is both amusing and serious at the same time. The challenges the region faces come through clearly, but not in a way that leaves the listener depressed.  Holding fast to the musical and storytelling traditions of the area, Cordle delivers a gem.

Rating: A

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© 2012 Curtis Jones and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mightycord, and is used for informational purposes only.