It’s usually a good sign when you find yourself humming pieces of lyrics and bits of tunes to a recent listen. This is definitely true of north Florida folksinger Larry Mangum’s latest release, Older Than Dirt. Don’t let the album’s title track fool you. This is no Ray Stevens style novelty record, but is full of insightful songwriting as well as wizened humor.
There are bluegrass/folk ballads of forbidden love (Piney Woods, Joined at the Heart), a western ballad (Justiceville) and a swing time serenade honoring Florida’s folk hero, Gamble Rogers (I Saw Gamble in a Dream.)
Though the title of the record is comical, it also rings true in other ways. Mangum does not pretend to be a youngster or a newcomer on the scene. His more personal lyrics indicate life’s lessons learned (Satisfied, The American Dream.) And his expert use of the weapons in a folksinger’s arsenal (fiddles, accordion, flat-picking guitars, dobros and even bowed bass) proves he has been on the road a long time and knows how to do it right.
To those who prefer a folk tune to a full-length movie for a good story, give an ear to Belle of the Ball, The Soldier and the Senorita, and Justiceville for yarns both poignant and tragic.
Perhaps the most powerful weapon, though , in Mangum’s arsenal is the thing he has that you can’t buy or learn. It‘s the gift of his warm, rich, and unforgettable voice. A pleasure to listen to, and expertly applied to every musical genre he engages. And aren’t we lucky that the songs he writes are just as worthy of our ears?