Ralph Stanley

Ralph Stanley

Ralph Stanley


Ralph Stanley leapt to prominence when people heard his performance of “O Death” in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but he’s not about to rest on his laurels. The 75-year-old Virginian has a weathered voice to go along with all those hard road miles, but that voice has wisdom and soul in it and it needs to be heard, needs to be experienced and felt, needs to be in your player in any and every way possible.

This is a T-Bone Burnett affair, so the Clinch Mountain Boys are nowhere to be heard — Ralph backed by a bluegrass all-star band of sorts, anchored by Norman Blake (NOT the one from Teenage Fanclub, but the guitar wizard), and they have a clean professional sound to complement that ancient thing that comes out of Ralph’s vocal chords. Nine of the songs are traditional ballads, ranging in tone from the opening inspirational “Lift Him Up, That’s All” to the dead-and-buried “Henry Lee,” which goes, in part, “With a little pen-knife held in her hand / She plugged him through and through.” Cool, huh?

We also get a brief but stunning a capella version of “I’ll Remember You in My Prayers,” which I always imagine him singing to his dead brother and longtime musical partner Carter. These old ballads are so classic and unstudied that even Hank Williams’ gospel-tonk “Calling You” sounds way too contemporary. But Ralph closes the disc with one of his own songs, “Great High Mountain,” on which his ancient voice floats freely over a minimal drone-like ambient accompaniment; hell, until the fiddle kicks in, you’d swear you were hearing some Pakistani qawwali wailer or something.

Really very incredibly crucial, unless you hate this stuff, in which case you’re laboring in the fields of ignorance and you deserve what you get.

Ralph Stanley: http://www.ralphstanley.net

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Sweet Crude
    Sweet Crude

    Créatures (Rhyme and Reason). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Gregg Allman, RIP
    Gregg Allman, RIP

    Michelle Wilson gives tribute to the voice of an angel. Gregg Allman, RIP.

  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
    Preservation Hall Jazz Band

    So It Is (Legacy). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • From Montenegro to Moldova: The Best of SEEFest 2017
    From Montenegro to Moldova: The Best of SEEFest 2017

    For the twelfth year, the South East European Film Festival (SEEfest) in Los Angeles showcased an impressive lineup of new features and shorts. Lily and Generoso Fierro provide a festival wrap up and their picks for the films that you cannot miss.

  • Justin Townes Earle
    Justin Townes Earle

    Kids In The Street (New West Records). Review by James Mann.

  • Christian Scott
    Christian Scott

    Rebel Ruler (Ropeadope / Stretch Music). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Kivanç Sezer
    Kivanç Sezer

    Turkish director Kivanç Sezer’s powerful debut feature, My Father’s Wings, puts the spotlight on the workplace safety crisis that is currently taking place in his homeland. Lily and Generoso Fierro spoke with Sezer at SEEFest 2017 about his film and his need to draw attention to this issue.

  • Temples

    Supporting their just-released sophomore record, UK synth-pop poster boys, Temples, attracted an SRO crowd to one of Orlando’s premier nightspots.

  • Rat Film
    Rat Film

    Baltimore. Rats. A match made in Maryland.

  • Bishop Briggs
    Bishop Briggs

    Bishop Briggs brings a stacked bill of up and comers to Orlando for a sold-out party at The Social. Jen Cray joins in the fun.

From the Archives