The UK Robinson Scholars Program will welcome two-time Grammy nominee Larry Cordle to campus Thursday, June 21. Cordle, who has worked with the likes of Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, Reba McIntire, Clint Black, Rhonda Vincent and Kathy Mattea, will lead a workshop and perform in concert at 7 p.m. at the UK Singletary Center for the Arts.
A fundraiser for the Robinson Scholars Program, the performance will serve to raise awareness for the program’s mission: to provide first-generation college students with support services and scholarship resources that empower them to complete a baccalaureate degree at UK and increase the educational capital of their communities. In addition to his concert performance, Cordle will also lead a workshop on songwriting and the business of music for high school students attending the Robinson Scholars Mission Appalachia summer camp.
Cordle is a Nashville-based singer and songwriter who leads the bluegrass band Lonesome Standard Time. During his more than 30 years as a professional musician, the eastern Kentucky native has written or co-written numerous Top 40 country hits for country musicians.
“Larry Cordle is a true Appalachian treasure,” Jeff Spradling, Robinson Scholars director, said. “We are thrilled that such an accomplished artist from the region will share his experiences with the students in our program.”
A native of Lawrence County, Cordle’s breakthrough in country music began in 1983 when he penned the number one country hit “Highway 40 Blues,” which was recorded by Ricky Skaggs. After that milestone, Cordle left an active career as a musician in Lexington to become a songwriter for Welk Music in Nashville.
Cordle’s songs have been on country music records that have sold more than 55 million copies. In 1991 his song “Against the Grain” was included on Garth Brooks’ album “Ropin’ the Wind,” which sold 14 million copies and debuted at the top of the country charts. Cordle’s bluegrass album “Lonesome Standard Time” received a Grammy nomination for best bluegrass album in 1993, and the song “Lonesome Standard Time” became a hit for Kathy Mattea in 1993, reaching number eight on country charts. Cordle’s version of this song was the number one hit on Bluegrass Unlimited’s national chart.
In 2001, his CD “Murder on Music Row” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Bluegrass Album category. His song by the same title was recorded by Alan Jackson and George Strait and was a stinging criticism of country music’s move away from traditional hillbilly music to an urbanized sound. The song received the 2000 Country Music Association award for Best Vocal Event. The lyrics lament, “Old Hank wouldn’t have a chance on today’s radio/since they committed murder down on Music Row.”
In addition to his solid footing in the traditional sounds of country music, Cordle also recorded a bluegrass album of Lynyrd Skynyrd songs titled “Lonesome Skynyrd Time” that received critical acclaim. The bluegrass treatment of those southern rock tunes illustrates the progressive sound that Cordle has integrated into his own bluegrass music.
Spradling said that Cordle’s participation in the summer camp will help nourish the students’ pride in Appalachia.
“In the Robinson Scholars Program, we value our east Kentucky roots,” Spradling said. “We want our scholars to come to UK well prepared academically, but we also want them to be proud of their region and culture. Mission Appalachia will give our students an opportunity to learn about and celebrate their rich heritage through arts and humanities programming.”
The Robinson Scholars Program’s Mission Appalachia Camp seeks to raise awareness among eastern Kentucky youth about the important historical and cultural contributions of the region to the state and nation.
During the camp, scheduled for June 17-22, 35 students will participate in a variety of classroom and hands-on activities to learn about the rich culture of eastern Kentucky and Appalachia. Participants will take classes in writing and Appalachian Studies, discover the extensive Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection and participate in workshops in art, music, dance and storytelling.
The Robinson Scholars programming also focuses on community service. All high school and college participants perform community service to remain active in the Robinson Scholars Program.
“We will work with our students at the camp to develop meaningful community service projects that use arts and humanities themes,” Spradling said.
Cordle’s concert is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and seating is limited.