Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys- Lord Help Me Find the Way review

Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys Lord Help Me Find the Way Stanley Family Records Ralph2.com

It took me years to warm to Ralph Stanley II, unfairly I’m not afraid to admit. I think I had read something negative during the heyday of bluegrass message boards, and the impression stuck. Once I started actually listening—specifically to the terrific number “Bluefield”—I realized how much Ralph Stanley II had to offer. Loyal to the Stanley legacy, Two has—since his legendary father’s passing—more securely embraced the sound his father and uncle had established.

The self-titled Ralph Stanley II and the Clinch Mountain Boys album of two years ago was prime, hardcore bluegrass, the Clinch Mountain sound on full display. Their new release, a bluegrass gospel effort entitled Lord Help Me Find the Way is as strong, limited in scope naturally to the sacred side of life, but no less a powerful and contemporary interpretation of the family-sound as listeners could desire.

Working with trusted Stanley producer Bil Vorndick, Stanley II mixes the old with the new, creating an upbeat, engaging interpretation of modern bluegrass gospel. The tradition is here, full-bore. “I Feel Like Going Home,” recorded by The Stanley Brothers on King in the early 60s, maintains the driving rhythm of the original, while allowing II and the CMB to establish their own approach to the music.

A new and charting song from Billy and Joan Wise, “Beautiful Hills of Home,” brings into its lyrics many Stanley references, ensuring that connections are maintained. Additional new songs like “John Caught a Vision” (Carmen Logan) and “Jesus on the Mainline” (II) further cement the Stanley family’s ongoing bluegrass legacy. Rick Stanley and Donna Ulisse’s “Old Family Graveyard” tugs all the right strings, as do “Between Fathers and Sons,” a Gary Nicholson and John Barlow Jarvis song, and “From Father to Son,” a Vorndick, Glen Duncan, and Adam Engelhardt co-write.

As a bit of a purist—not militantly so, I don’t believe—I appreciate when a band releases an album featuring just the band, and Stanley II has elected to do that here, with Clinch Mountain Boys Alex Leach (banjo), John Rigsby (fiddle and mandolin), and Randall Hibbitts (bass) doing all the singing (not Hibbitts) and playing. Leach, who has since left the CMB to concentrate his efforts on his own, self-named outfit, has a high voice, both tenor and baritone, and he just cuts through the mix. Love it. Rigsby and Hibbitts, both long-time Clinch Mountain Boys, know the music better than most, and are suitable foils for Stanley II as he continues the tradition. As a remembrance to the Ralph Stanley legacy, albums do not get better than Lord Help Me Find the Way.

Review based on provided CD.

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