Clinch Mountain Echo

Ernie Thacker - The Hangman

(Pinecastle PRC-1167) 2008

The Hangman
Rear Cover CD Tray

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This album was recorded in early 2006 at River Track Studios, where 16 years before Ernie had cut the Holdin' On cassette with Ralph Stanley. The sessions were more or less completed, when tragically he was involved in a car accident near his home in April 2006. The accident, which left Ernie with 12 broken ribs, a broken collar bone, ruptured spleen and crushed aorta; also meant half a lung had to be removed, plus partial amputation of his legs and left him paralysed from the waist down.

After two months in a coma, and a further four months of rehab, Ernie returned home, and in the fall of 2006 put the finishing touches to the CD.

Pinecastle picked up on the album in Dec. 2007 but held back on it's release until late 2008 / early 2009, when Ernie had recovered sufficiently enough to help promote it.

The CD got a 'Highlight' review in the May 2009 edition of 'Bluegrass Unlimited' which not only applauded Ernie's "faith, perserverance and overcoming big odds" but praised the delivery of "one all-star performance after another" and gave a thumbs up to the majority of the song choices.

Much of the disc is propelled along by Matt Thacker's throbbing electric bass lines, particularly on the uptempo numbers like the murder ballad, The Ballad Of Charlie Dill, Dwight Yoakum's This Drinkin' Will Kill Me and a version of Carter Stanley's Rollin' On Rubber Wheels.

Friday Once Again and Sunday Morning Coming Down both demonstrate that as well as being able to handle the 'full-throttle' 'grass, Route 23 and Ernie excel at the slower more country-tinged ballads. The melancholic Friday Once Again tells of the effects of failed marriage on children and parents, and Kris Kristofferson's Sunday Morning Coming Down compares favourably to the Johnny Cash / Ray Stevens covers.

Ernie's voice is in fine form throughout the album, with Dick Roach (banjo) and Brandon Shupping (mandolin) providing decent 'contemporary' style bluegrass backing. As a bonus, augmenting the regular Route 23 band, is CMB John Rigsby who adds some tasteful fiddle on several tracks.

The title cut, The Hangman, which written by Dave Thacker (one of Ernie's brothers), is another of the album's highlights. An up-tempo tale of escaping from the law, the song is well crafted and arranged by the band.

In Jan 2009, Ernie talked about the new album in an interview with Johnny Walker of 'Country Standard Time' saying: "My brother Dave and I had pitched 'Hangman' around for several years actually, fooling around with it until we got the sound just right. I was very proud of how that one turned out," he says. "'The Ballad of Charlie Dill' was in a package of songs Bill Castle had sent to me, and it really stood out. I thought it suited the record and theme we were going for very well."

Asked about Keith How Many Ernie replied:- "I don't normally like tribute songs, and Keith means everything to me. So, if I was going to do it, I wanted to be just right. If you notice, the song never actually mentions Keith's full name. If you are not a Keith Whitley fan, you may not know it is about him. Like in the last verse it mentions dancing with Molly, some may not know that is a song of Keith's. I liked that about the song. I have videos of Keith when he was very young and singing lead for Ralph. His voice was unlike any other."[1]

The Ballad Of Charlie Dill

Bill Castle
Detroit City Chill

Dave Carroll
This Drinkin' Will Kill Me

Dwight Yoakum
Friday Once Again

Dave Russell
The Hangman

Dave Thacker
Keith How Many

Melvin Burns
I Wish You Knew

Charlie Louvin / Ira Louvin
Curch Upon The Hill

D.D. Thacker
Pickin' Up The Pieces

Rollin' On Rubber Wheels

C. Stanley
Sunday Morning Coming Down

Kristoffer Kristofferson
Word Of Mouth

Salvatore Guido / Paul Kelly


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