Ralph Stanley

Cry from the Cross

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    9
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Originally released on LP in 1972, this was the first album Ralph Stanley recorded with what many still consider the best band he ever had, one that included not only lead singer Roy Lee Centers (whose vocal similarity to Stanley's late brother, Ralph, was positively eerie), fiddler Curly Ray Cline, and bassist Jack Cooke, but also the young mandolinist Ricky Skaggs and guitarist Keith Whitley. Stanley had discovered Skaggs and Whitley playing old-timey brother duets in a club and was so taken with them that he invited them to tour with him, thus creating one of bluegrass history's legendary lineups. The material on Cry From the Cross is rendered expertly, but without any slickness; Stanley's rough-edged tenor voice dominates, as always, and the instrumental backing tends to be minimal. "Bright Morning Star" and "Sinner Man" are both performed a cappella, and the gripping "Two Coats," which would go on to become a staple of the Stanley repertoire, is here given a sharp-edged modal delivery that perfectly complements the song's stern moral message. This album is clearly a must for Stanley fans and will also serve as a good introduction for newcomers.

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