Wednesday, November 29, 2006

So, Larry Cordle called.

Ok, not really. But just before waking up today I dreamed that I was out of town, presumably in Nashville, with my son. My cell phone buzzes as I’m in line at a bakery/coffee shop, and Larry Cordle’s name is in the little caller ID window. But I missed the call and am troubled by why someone like that would be trying to reach me.

Kentucky-born and raised Larry Cordle and I have a tiny bit in common, aside of the fact that we’re both crazy about bluegrass. This time a year ago, I wasn’t sure I’d still be here. I’d been diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition, and since no one else in my genetic line had dealt with this, I really had no idea how to prepare for the uncertainty.

This time a year ago, Larry Cordle didn’t know that in the following April he’d be diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery in May and this past August was given a clean bill of health. That’s amazing news, for Larry, for his family, and for music fans everywhere.

Larry Cordle served in the Navy and got his accounting degree when he came out. Known mostly today as a songwriter, in the beginning he stuck to his day job and wrote songs and played clubs in his off hours. Then one day, a former neighbor and childhood friend named Ricky Skaggs recorded a song of Cordle’s called “Highway 40 Blues,” which shot to the top of the charts and launched Skaggs’ country career (thanks, Ricky, for getting past that). The rest is history – not only is Larry known as a solid writer, with more than 50 million records sold carrying his songs recorded by everyone from Alison Krauss to George Strait, but is a beloved performer with his band, Lonesome Standard Time. We catch them every year at IBMA, and since I didn’t return his call, I’ll do better to catch him and LST whenever I can.

One of the things I failed to mention in a previous post is that I’m thankful I’m still here. More than that, I intend to live the second chance I’ve been given. I’ve been working harder at that, and I have so many examples around me both in the music world and among my friends and family of how to live through the tougher times. My friends laugh and balk when I say this, but I really do mean it when I say that even if it means I’m eating tuna out of a tin can when I’m 80, I’m gonna honor the opportunity I’ve been given by staying aware and true to the gift of knowledge that music is what I love, organizing people and projects is what I’m good at, and putting the two of these together is going to somehow touch people and hopefully make a difference in their lives.

Thanks, Larry Cordle, for making a difference in so many lives. We’re blessed that you’ll be around to make a difference in many more. And next time, I promise to answer that phone! Maybe I'll see you at the Pennyroyal Opera House (Fairview, OH) in January!

When it comes time for requests, no matter whether you're at a Mountain Heart or a Metallica show, someone inevitably asks for this one. Truth be told, any bluegrass version I've heard does it justice--it's got that lonesome feel to it, and hey, at least it's an honest ode to the fear of commitment. Here's a clip of Freebird (click the link at left for the Wiki history of this southern rock classic) as rendered by Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time, from their CD, Lonesome Skynyrd Time. For real. (Might be worth a visit to iTunes for you Skynyrd can never have too much Freebird.)


If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be travelling on, now,
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see.
But, if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can't change.

Bye, bye, its been a sweet love.
Though this feeling I can't change.
But please don't take it badly,
'Cause Lord knows I'm to blame.
But, if I stayed here with you girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you'll never change.
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can't change.
Lord help me, I can't change.


At December 08, 2006 4:00 PM, Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

I taped a Reno's Bluegrass Festival this week in which the guests were "Cordele" and Duncan. One of the better shows - Ronnie Reno did a bluegrass take on "The Letter" (which works well in acoustic mode), and Cordle, Duncan, and Lonesome Standard Time sang "Lonesome Standard Time" and "The Fields of Home."

I hadn't heard of Cordle before, so (once I got his name) right I did some online searching and found out about his fight with cancer, as well as the hubbub about "Murder at Music Row." Good for him.

Maybe he'll see your post and call you. :)

I have never heard any version of "Freebird" other than the original, and I'm still trying to imagine it in an acoustic format. For some reason I picture the song (and the infamous solo) as something that could be played by one million regimented Communist Chinese guitarists (a la the Talking Heads' "Electric Guitar"). But that's just me; I'm sure bluegrass versions sound excellent. (Do they reproduce the solo with a fiddle?)

At December 08, 2006 9:54 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey Emperor (what a handle!),
Thanks for visiting. Are you a member of the California Bluegrass Association? Thems a mighty big bunch, I've noticed.

The funny thing about bluegrass is that almost anything can be bluegrass. Ever heard Hayseed Dixie? Pickin' on REM? No foolin, you can take anything, throw in a dobro, mando, banjo, fiddle, whatever -- and it sounds perfectly normal.

Ok, normal to ME.

Come on back any time, Emp.



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