Larry Cordle’s connection to his native Kentucky has always been solidly ingrained in his style and sound, but for those unaware, his latest effort, Tales From East Kentucky ought to affirm that legacy as first and foremost as goes his MO. A hit-making songwriter for others — those who have recorded his songs in the past include Garth Brooks, the Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Alan Jackson and Kathy Mattea — he demonstrates an ability to write material that’s personal in perspective, but universal in its truths. Indeed, those who can’t claim to be from The Bluegrass State will likely still be able to relate to these homespun homilies.
As a result, Tales From East Kentucky may be the most accessible effort Cordle’s ever offered, and that includes his seminal albums with the Lonesome Standard Time as well as the subsequent efforts he’s recorded on his own. The tunes are mostly topical — the joys of raising chickens for Sunday dinners (Yardbird), a fascination with flashy cars (A Large Detroit American Automobile), nods to music makers past and present (Bluegrass Junction), and the celebration of senior citizens as examples of good old boys who still wanna have fun.
“Old men are still young men inside,
There are just fewer mountains to climb…
Old men don’t take any crap,
They love baseball and taking a nap.”
Those of a certain age will find more than a kernel of truth in those sentiments, and indeed Cordle and company’s homespun delivery ensures a close connection. Nevertheless, the broader possibilities are also apparent; the aforementioned Old Men sounds like a song that might have been made famous by Mel Tillis or George Jones, while the jaunty fiddle flourish of A Large Detroit American Automobile finds it resembling music of a vintage variety. Indeed, given the combination of narrative, nostalgia, and general rural charm, these tales are timeless, as summed up succinctly in the sentiments of the self-explanatory Back When, and melodies which range from the lively ramble of Bandit, to the high lonesome call of Anything Worth Doing.
Suffice it to say that given the astute combination of contemporary conviction and traditional trappings, these particular Kentucky tales are as vivid as they are vital.