Ralph Stanley

Great High Mountain

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Thanks to his long career and numerous musical milestones, Ralph Stanley has become an institution and then some. Indeed, if he'd done no more than play his role in the legendary Stanley Brothers with his brother Carter, his rep would've been sealed. But Stanley seems to have more musical lives than a hip cat, with his latest ascension following O Brother, Where Art Thou? Great High Mountain isn't so much a follow-up to Stanley's O Brother work as a short retrospective, perhaps designed for the bluegrass fan unfamiliar with the span of his musical legacy. This is at least Rebel's third compilation of Stanley's music, and while it's quite enjoyable, one starts to imagine that a box set -- and not another compilation -- is what's really needed. The real problem with Great High Mountain, though, is that it barely scratches the surface of Stanley's work at Rebel. Indeed, the album is only 37 minutes long, meaning that it could've been twice as long and still fit on one disc. Rebel sweetens the package by adding one unreleased cut from 1976, "I'm Lonesome Without You." Great High Mountain isn't a bad place for the Stanley novice to start, but one might also consider other classic albums like Saturday Night & Sunday Morning.

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