RALPH STANLEY STILL IN CHARGE
by Rick Bell
American Reporter Correspondent
(Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys. Live at McCabe's
Guitar Shop. New York, N.Y.: Digital Club Network. 2002.
49 mins. $15.98. ASIN: B00005Y1TW.)
POWAY, Calif. -- With the unbelievable popularity of the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack peaking, a live album from Ralph Stanley seems a natural fit.
Beautifully captured at Santa Monica's pristine, intimate McCabe's Guitar Shop, the 23-song album is more Clinch Mountain Boys than Stanley, who at 74, is more a host these days than a featured performer.
Giving each member at least one featured piece, Stanley is quite at peace these days allowing others to share the spotlight. In fact, the elder Stanley seems to be handing much of the band's chores to his son, guitarist and singer Ralph Stanley II.
"Two," as he is known, is the featured singer on several numbers and eloquently complements both his father and bassist Jack Cooke's tenor vocals with his rolling, Keith Whitley-like baritone.
Though the album represents a passing of the torch to the next generation, Stanley still delivers a haunting version of "O Death" as well as a very traditional "Man of Constant Sorrow," both of which are on the "O Brother" soundtrack. While "Two" may be taking on a bigger role, a Clinch Mountain Boys live show makes it obvious who is still the boss when Ralph Sr. is onstage.
Rick Bell is a writer and editor living in Poway, Calif.