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Ralph Stanley/Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys/Clinch Mountain Boys: The Complete Jessup Recordings Plus!

Track List

>We'll Be Sweethearts in Heaven
>Mother No Longer Awaits Me at Home
>Our Last Goodbye
>Lonesome River
>I Love No One But You
>It's Never Too Late
>Loving You Too Well
>Too Late to Cry
>Little Glass of Wine
>I Long to See the Old Folks
>Are You Proud of America
>Rock Bottom
>Another Song, Another Drink
>Take Me Back
>You're Going Away
>Let's Keep Old Glory Waving
>River Underground
>Ain't It Hard
>Daughter of Geronimo
>Keep My Love With You
>Let Me Walk Lord by Your Side
>In Heaven We'll Never Grow Old
>Wings of Angels
>Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn, The
>Working on a Building
>Master's Bouquet
>Leaning on Jesus
>White Dove
>Shouting on the Hills of Glory
>Few More Seasons to Come, A
>Daniel Prayed
>My Main Trial Is Yet to Come

Album Notes

Personnel: Ralph Stanley (vocals, banjo); Keith Whitley, Roy Lee Centers (vocals, guitar); Ricky Skaggs (vocals, mandolin, fiddle); Curley Ray Cline (fiddle).

Audio Remasterer: Mike Milchner.

Liner Note Author: Colin Escott.

Photographer: Lawson Little.

In 1971, Ralph Stanley was one of the most respected and venerable figures in bluegrass, but in those days that only mattered so much. Bluegrass wasn't making much of an impression on the sales charts as the Nashville sound held sway, and even the biggest stars of the genre were a long way from wealthy. So Stanley, one of the true founding fathers of the music, was playing any festival or venue that would have him, and recording for several labels at once to keep product flowing. One of those labels was Jessup Records, a tiny outfit run by a jukebox distributor in Jackson, Michigan, and in 1971 and 1973, Stanley and his group the Clinch Mountain Boys cut a pair of albums for the label. However, Stanley's brief tenure with Jessup also coincided with an interesting period in his group's lineup -- a pair of teenage kids who were passionate bluegrass fans and precocious instrumentalists made Stanley's acquaintance, and soon Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley were touring and recording with the Clinch Mountain Boys. Skaggs and Whitley appeared on Stanley's two albums for Jessup, and The Complete Jessup Recordings Plus! reissues Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys Sing Michigan Bluegrass and Gospel Echoes of the Stanley Brothers in full, as well as Tribute to the Stanley Brothers, another small-label album Skaggs and Whitley recorded with Stanley and his group shortly before joining the Clinch Mountain Boys. None of this material rises to the level of a lost classic -- according to the liner notes by Colin Escott, these albums were recorded quickly and inexpensively, and one was knocked out in an afternoon while Stanley and the group waited to play their set at a bluegrass festival. But Stanley always held his group to a high standard, and if these recordings are typical for the group in this era, they're also quite good -- Stanley's vocals and banjo work have plenty of gravitas, and as he was already a 25-year music biz veteran at this point, he leads his group with a sure hand. Skaggs was already a solid and imaginative mandolin player, though he doesn't get a great deal of room to solo, and Whitley's vocals on Tribute to the Stanley Brothers are the work of a teenager still learning the ropes, but his talent and feel for the music are obvious. Given the circumstances under which these albums were recorded, the audio is consistently good if not outstanding, and the musicians spin through the older material with conviction, while making the most of the new tunes on Michigan Bluegrass (none of which have anything in particular to do with the Mitten State). Not essential, but valuable as a historical document and plenty enjoyable as a listening experience. ~ Mark Deming


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