Archive for the ‘Ralph Stanley’ Tag
I’ve been to Starbucks many, many times. I’ve always felt the best thing about the stores was the CDs they had on offer. Now I hear they are going out of the music business.
I’ve been to Cracker Barrel once. I know the best thing about the restaurant is the CDs they have on offer.
Last spring, while driving through Springfield, MO I convinced my wife we needed to stop for an early supper at the Cracker Barrel. I figured our US adventure wouldn’t be complete without a meal at the popular restaurant.
Man, was that a bad decision. Still, I was able to secure a copy of the very good Mandy Barnett Don Gibson-tribute album that I would have otherwise missed.
My review of the new Ralph Stanley & Friends Man of Constant Sorrow album (available only at Cracker Barrel stores) is up at the Lonesome Road Review.
Buy the album; pass on the chicken and dumplings.
A mini-review of the duo’s recent album, as well as a thought or two about how ‘more’ bluegrass and bluegrass information may be causing us to overlook what really matters. Here’s the link that will get you to the article over at Country Standard Time. Slow down this summer, and listen to this wonderful little album.
As always, I thank you for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Originally published at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, June, 2014:
87 years is a long time to live. To be a vital recording artist at that age is highly unusual, but that is what we find today when we consider Ralph Stanley.
Recorded last year- so more accurately 86 year old as a recording artist- “Side By Side” is a duet album recorded by Stanley and his son, Ralph Stanley II, and released this past February on Rebel Records. I purchased the album while on a spring break trip to Missouri, and it immediately went into regular rotation in the Fervor Coulee F-150.
It is the first time the two have stood, well, side by side in the studio as equals rather than as ‘boss’ and Clinch Mountain Boy. The selection of songs- four of which feature Ralph in strong, lead voice- are almost exclusively older and well-known: the album kicks off with Wild Bill Jones, goes Walking With You In My Dreams, asks Are You Waiting Just For Me, and concludes with I’ve Still Got 99.
The musicianship is classic sounding- fresh and relaxed with a professional sheen that doesn’t get in the way of the emotions of the music. Clinch Mountain Boys alumni John Rigsby (fiddle and mandolin), Randall Hibbitts (bass), and Steve Sparkman (banjo) are the core band, with Two doing double duty on lead and rhythm guitar. Dr. Ralph lays out clawhammer-style on a solitary track, the appealing Battle Ax.
Doubting the senior Stanley’s vocal capabilities? Don’t. Instead, give Don’t Weep for Me, or appreciate his excellent tenor contributions to any number of these songs including Don’t Step Over An Old Love, Nobody Answered Me, or Carolina Mountain Home.
Two has become a fine singer in his own right, one of my favorites. If you haven’t heard him before, also consider his album of a couple years back “Born To Be A Drifter.” White & Pink Flowers is a sentimental weeper, while Dirty Black Coal is more my style. Start to finish, “Side By Side” is a superior album of bluegrass.
Perusing these song titles, it is readily apparent what Two and co-producer Rigsby had in mind- a celebration of the Stanley mountain music legacy. And they have pulled such off in a significant way.
My question is, Has anyone noticed?
Googling around a bit this week, I found only a handful of full reviews of this album. I may have missed them, but I don’t recall seeing these songs on recent airplay charts. The various bluegrass discussion boards have either ignored the album entirely, or acknowledged it only in passing. There was an initial spurt of one-sheet rewrites back in February, and at least one insightful interview with Two published, but it certainly hasn’t been highlighted to any other significant degree on the major bluegrass websites. I know some in my acquaintance weren’t even aware the album was even released-admittedly, their bad.
All of which is a shame. “Side By Side,” from where I’m sitting in central Alberta, is cause for celebration. We all know Ralph Stanley had planned on retiring this year, but with his continuing good health delaying that decision one of the last true ‘first generation’ bluegrass singers continues to make appearances. And his latest album is as good as anything- and certainly superior to some- he has recorded in the past twenty years.
I wonder if we are losing sight of what really matters when it comes to bluegrass. Information about the musicians is available to us like never before- if we don’t get a Tweet about someone’s daughter’s graduation, we’re reading another birth announcement. We get updates weekly about fiddle players we’ve never heard of either leaving or joining bands we haven’t encountered. We can find the latest song by the ‘next big thing’ in seconds, but how often do we actually listen?
We hear more, read more, know more than ever before. But, have we forgot to listen? To contemplate and understand?
These are mighty great days to be a fan of bluegrass music. In our haste to glean a little of everything, let’s not ignore those who got us here.
I would suggest that “Side By Side” should be added to everyone’s summer listening list.
Jeff at Country Standard Time asked me to condense my review of Doctor’s Orders for use on the website, and I was pleased to do so. The (much)
briefer more brief piece has been posted HERE. I like the freedom to write as much as I like here at Fervor Coulee and at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, but also enjoy the challenge of being more concise with my opinions and descriptions when under someone else’s guidelines. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
There are days when I am simply plum-tickled to have the opportunity to write about bluegrass music. This is one of them. My review of Doctor’s Orders: A Tribute to Ralph Stanley is posted over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass. In a year that has already produced several excellent albums, this may be the album of the year.
It is only now that I’ve posted the album that I realize, within the review’s 600+ words I fail to mention Rigsby’s amazing vocals. I am a dunce. I guess I could make the argument that anyone who would expect anything less than bluegrass vocal perfection from Rigsby hasn’t likely been listening.
The first time I heard the album’s lead track, “The Mountain Doctor,” I was pulling into the parking lot of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri at the edge of the Ozarks. While those mountains and Dr. Ralph’s mountains are separated by several hundred miles, while listening I had me a profound and lasting bluegrass moment, one that will stick in my memory for a long while.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. And thanks to Rebel Records for keeping me in the loop; I appreciate it. Donald
In my Roots Music column today, I advance the local roots shows and review the new album from Dr. Ralph Stanley A Mother’s Prayer now available on Rebel Records. It is a massive gooder- don’t believe anyone who tells you that Ralph no longer has ‘it.’ If his is the last voice I hear in this life, I’ll leave a happy man.
http://tinyurl.com/3u9adre will get you to the column and review.
Originally published in my Roots Music column in the Red Deer Advocate, April 22, 2011
Ralph Stanley A Mother’s Prayer Rebel Records
At 84, Ralph Stanley’s voice recalls a previous time, a time that many of us- despite our reading, research, and listening- cannot imagine.
Stanley is as mountain as rock and his faith is as steadfast; he never sounds more natural as when searching for life’s truths in songs of worship.
Celebrating 40 years recording for Rebel, with his latest recording the patriarch of contemporary Appalachian music goes to the true roots of his music to explore sacred songs and unadorned ballads.
Some of songs may have been brought to North America by settlers. These ancient tunes- “Prince of Peace” and “Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb”- are the spine of the album, supporting the wonderful music surrounding them.
Ballads tell stories of fateful fires (“Come All Ye Tenderhearted”) and errant sons (“A Mother’s Prayer”), and these compelling tales- with faith at their core- are sure to appeal to all bluegrass fans. Stanley has the rare ability- like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard- to make such stories sound as though they were pulled from his own experiences.
Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys, as they always do, support and complement their legendary leader. Select tracks have fire in their instrumentation (“He Suffered for My Reward,” “Let Him Into Your Heart,” and especially “That Home Far Away”) where elsewhere (“Life Him Up,” “That’s All”) the framing provided is subtle enough to almost be missed.
For those who can think of nothing finer than a cappella Stanley, a trio of such numbers is included including “John the Revelator” and “That Wonderful Place.” A few of the songs, including “What Kind of Man,” have previously been recorded by Stanley with a couple new songs presented here for the first time.
What sounds sweeter than bluegrass gospel? In the hands and voice of Ralph Stanley, bluegrass gospel seldom sounds more sincere and enjoyable.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Support live music. Buy an album. Donald
As you may be aware, I am involved with the Red Deer and Central Alberta bluegrass organization, Waskasoo Bluegrass Music Society. We’ve been around for ten years and encourage, promote, and showcase bluegrass music in the area. We have a newsletter called That High Lonesome Sound, and several years back I started a column called Donald’s Bluegrass Shelf to showcase reviews of bluegrass recordings that I think are worthwhile.
This past month, I’ve been putting together an article about places to start listening to bluegrass. We are far from the bluegrass heartland, and Carter Stanley, Don Reno, and Hazel Dickens are not household names. Most of our members and friends are experiencing bluegrass in a very different manner than those who were raised on the music. I sometimes get asked, “Donald, what is a great bluegrass album to start with?” With input from folks on the BGRASS-L and Postcard2, I’ve put together a list of albums to help folks who are interested in starting an exploration into the music.
In the new edition of THLS, I share some of my initial recommendations.
When you’re just starting out with bluegrass recordings, guidance is helpful. Here is a selection of CDs that may help you mind your way through the various streams and rivers that make up the bluegrass waterway. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the ‘best’ or most influential bluegrass albums ever recorded. It is intended as one person’s opinion as to where you might start listening.
All but one of the albums are in print and relatively easy to locate; online retailers are likely the best bet for acquiring the music. Unfortunately, because of the foibles of the record business, some essential bluegrass recordings from the likes of The Osborne Brothers, Reno & Smiley, Bill Monroe and others are not readily available. All retail links are provided only as a guide and no endorsement is implied or stated.
I don’t pretend to be a bluegrass expert, but I have been fortunate to listen to more bluegrass than most folks over the past fifteen or so years. These recommendations are based on my listening and on the suggestions of others. By no means is it definitive, and you’ll notice instrumental albums are under-represented. As they say, your mileage may vary.
First up, the most affordable and expansive single-label, bluegrass compilation I’ve run across- Hand-Picked: Twenty-Five Years of Rounder Bluegrass. Since Rounder is currently celebrating its fortieth anniversary, this two-disc collection is obviously dated, but the music isn’t. The Rounder essentials are represented- J.D. Crowe, Alison Krauss, Tony Rice, Lynn Morris, Johnson Mountain Boys, Dry Branch Fire Squad- but it is with the less familiar artists- Hazel Dickens, James King, Joe Val, Ted Lundy, Bill Keith- that true treasures are revealed. The liner notes are informative. This set retails for less than $8 and can usually be found at HMV stores. Other Rounder compilations to consider: O Sister! The Women’s Bluegrass Collection and O Sister! 2, Bluegrass Number 1’s, True Bluegrass, and the essential coalmining collection Harlan County USA: Songs of the Coal Miner’s Struggle.
Here are additional suggestions to help you navigate your bluegrass journey, starting with some of The Classics:
Bill Monroe- Anthology (Universal, 2003) In my research, I found that this great two-disc set of 50 Monroe tracks appears to be out-of-print. Dang, because there isn’t another serviceable overview of The Father of Bluegrass available. The single-disc Definitive Collection (MCA, 2005) certainly isn’t but will do in a pinch, I suppose. There are a few European collections of early works that are okay, but the best ‘other’ place to start would be with the Bear Family box sets which are incredible in quality and presentation. But they’ll set you back a hundred bucks or more.
Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys- Can’t You Hear the Mountains Calling (Rounder, 2009- recorded 1981) A reissue of the 1986 cassette 16 Years, this set- recorded in a day- features a powerful lineup of CMBs fronted by Charlie Sizemore.
The Country Gentlemen- Sing and Play Folk Songs & Bluegrass (Folkways, 1961-reissued Smithsonian Folkways, 1991) Only a few years ago, you easily located material from the classic years of The Country Gentlemen. Now, an Amazon.ca search reveals little available. eMusic and iTunes have several of their recordings for download including this release. The vocal trios contained herein are especially impressive, and Charlie Waller’s leads were seldom stronger. This disc- and many other exceptional bluegrass releases- are available directly from the label at http://www.folkways.si.edu/
The Seldom Scene- Live at the Cellar Door (Rebel Records, 1975) It is a testament to how far bluegrass has come that this progressive album from the mid-70s now seems positively quaint and- to many- even traditional. Featuring the classic lineup of Duffey, Starling, Auldridge, Eldridge, and Gray, this combo took bluegrass to levels not previously experienced. Also recommended are any of the Act albums. For the more contemporary Seldom Scene lineup, Scene it All (Sugar Hill, 2000) is tough to beat.
Flatt & Scruggs- The Complete Mercury Recordings (Universal, 2003) One has to be careful when purchasing Flatt & Scruggs compilations as several sketchy sets are found on shelves. This single disc album is comprised of the sides recorded by the duo in 1948-1950, just after leaving the Blue Grass Boys. Mac Wiseman handles some vocals as does Curly Seckler, but it is Lester and Earl that you are trying to learn about here. This is an excellent place to start.
More suggestions next time…and thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, Donald