Ralph Stanley

Bound to Ride

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This disc collects 20 recordings made in the early '70s by the legendary Ralph Stanley with his Clinch Mountain Boys, who included, at various times, Ricky Skaggs, Roy Lee Centers, and even the late John Duffey. The fierce, elemental purity of Stanley's sound is captured beautifully on these sessions, many of which feature him playing clawhammer banjo in the style he learned from his mother. But though his banjo playing is very good, it's Stanley's singing that has always set him apart from the rest of the bluegrass pack: His piercing mountain tenor voice and his sanctified delivery almost sound like something from another world. When he sings "Pretty Polly," "Riding the Midnight Train," or especially, the hair-raising "Man of Constant Sorrow," the effect is visceral and spiritual at the same time. Listening to him blow out the microphone with Duffey and Centers on "The Lonesome River" is almost literally a religious experience. This is mountain music at its finest.

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