On February 11th, 2001, an intimate group of lucky people crammed into tiny McCabe's Guitar Shop to experience 55 years of bluegrass legacy firsthand when Ralph Stanley held court at the ripe age of 74 years young. Supported heavily by his Clinch Mountain Boys, Stanley acts initially as an MC, introducing the members of his band to each come up and take his turn on vocals and featured instrumentals, and during the second set takes center stage himself performing recent favorites like "Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Oh Death." The sparing use of the patriarch of bluegrass is by no means surprising, nor is it even a detraction. The able vocals of his son Ralph Stanley II and the superlative banjo picking of Steve Sparkman leave the elder Stanley to supply the piercing tenor harmonies that he perfected with his brother Carter in the '40s and '50s. The band turns in a searing "Daybreak in Dixie," expert clawhammer-style banjo playing on "Rocky Island," and an astounding a cappella rendition of "I'll Wear a White Robe" during this second set. The loose, intimate setting makes for a real authentic hills-and-hollers feel, and the appreciative (and fortunate) crowd seems genuinely awed at this rare opportunity to see a true musical legend in his element. While this is by no means the definitive Ralph Stanley album, or even a great starting point for listeners intrigued by what they found in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, it is a terrific document of how the music of the mountains can become more valuable as it ages.
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AllMusic Review by Zac Johnson