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MUSIC REVIEW: Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time

LARRY CORDLE & LONESOME STANDARD TIME, "Took Down and Put Up," Lonesome Day. 13 tracks.

Next year, Larry Cordle will celebrate the silver anniversary of his big break.

It was in 1983 that Ricky Skaggs, one of his boyhood friends, took Cordle's "Highway 40 Blues" to the top of the country music charts - and opened the door for him to move to Nashville as a full-time songwriter and musician.

The song, by the way, isn't about Interstate 40, which runs through Nashville.

It's about Kentucky 40, a small highway that runs between Inez and Paintsville in eastern Kentucky. Back then, Cordle was driving the back roads of Appalachia, trying to make a living performing on weekends.

He would go on to write "Two Highways" for Alison Krauss, "Mama Don't Forget To Pray For Me" for Diamond Rio, "Lonesome Standard Time" for Kathy Mattea and "Murder on Music Row" for George Strait and Alan Jackson.

Cordle had been a Southern rocker in his early years. But he turned to bluegrass in 1993 with a self-titled album that won him a Grammy nomination.

Since then, he's won recognition as both a singer and songwriter.

"Took Down and Put Up" plays to both of Cordle's strengths. He wrote or co-wrote nine of the tracks.

The first single, however, is Chris Stuart's "The First Train Robbery," an uptempo tale of three brothers hanged for murder and robbery, which features duet vocals by Randy Kohrs.

There's a duet with country rocker Travis Tritt on Cordle's "Rough Around The Edges" and a bluegrass version of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Mississippi Kid."

But the strength of the album is Cordle singing Cordle.

There's "Song For Keith," a tribute to Keith Whitley, another childhood friend, and "Hole In The Ground," a coal mining song with a plea of a miner who doesn't want to spend eternity in another hole.

And there's "I'm A Lie," a song with the contemporary line "I'm why Osama's got `em lining up for suicide"; "The Hero of the Creek," a tribute to a childhood idol who died last year; and "A Visit With An Uncle," a song about a visit to the family graveyard, which the liner notes say was the last song Cordle played for his mother before she died last year.

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