Although the Universal Music Group has been assembling discount-priced best-ofs for most of its catalog artists as part of its "20th Century Masters/The Millennium Collection" series and might have been expected to get around to the Stanley Brothers, who spent five years in the mid-'50s on the now-Universal-owned Mercury label, eventually, the inclusion of their 1955 recording of "Angel Band" on the Grammy-winning, multi-platinum soundtrack album to O Brother, Where Art Thou? is the immediate impetus for this collection. O Brother, Where Art Thou? has led record labels to scour their vaults for traditional bluegrass, under the impression that the success of the soundtrack has created a vast new audience for old-time mountain music. And indeed, anyone who liked hearing "Angel Band" likely will enjoy 11 more Stanley Brothers songs in their familiar style. But in a time when the most popular recording format, the CD, can hold up to 80 minutes of music, buyers are liable to be disappointed, even with the discount price, that the disc runs less than half an hour. The reason for this is hidden in music industry machinations and has to do with the fees record companies pay music publishers for the use of their songs. Any more than 12 songs, presumably, would lead to an economic sacrifice, since albums in the series never contain more tracks than that. But the Stanley Brothers' recordings are quite short, and as a result, so is this album. Therefore, even casual fans might be better advised to spring for the more extensive 1995 set Angel Band: The Classic Mercury Recordings for a sense of this five-year period in the Stanley Brothers' career.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann