The title of Audium's 2002 release, The Very Best of Ralph Stanley, is a little misleading, and while it is not a genre-spanning, all-encompassing collection of everything the godfather of bluegrass recorded, it does grab 16 very nice recordings from the early to mid-'70s, with one recording jumping out from the year 2000. Stanley's most recognized songs ("Little Maggie," "Rank Stranger," "Man of Constant Sorrow," "O Death") are all represented, as well as some lesser-known gems like "Clinch Mountain Backstep" and the underrated "Katie Daley" (featuring performances by the very youthful Ricky Skaggs on mandolin and Keith Whitley on guitar). Roy Lee Centers, who acted as partner to Ralph Stanley's high-lonesome tenor after Carter Stanley's death ended the Stanley Brothers' career in 1966, features prominently on the album, ably taking lead vocals on nearly half of the songs. The highlight of the album is one of the warmest and most beautiful renditions of the song "Rank Strangers" available in the Stanley catalog, and it alone is worth the price of the disc.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Zac Johnson