The Stanley Brothers

Hymm

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You won't find it mentioned anywhere in the packaging, but this 24-song CD combines two albums the Stanley Brothers recorded of sacred material around the same era onto one disc. The first half has 1959's Hymns and Sacred Songs; the second half presents Sacred Songs from the Hills. Really, how hard can it be to reveal this somewhere on the cover or in the booklet? Anyway, as both titles make plain, these are devotional songs, though executed by the duo with an upbeat flair that will make them easy to enjoy for anyone who likes country-bluegrass featuring close harmonies, regardless of whether you're on the lookout for religious themes. While Ralph Stanley wrote a few of these tunes, most of them are covers, including compositions by notables like Bill Monroe, the Louvin Brothers, and A.P. Carter. The sound is strong and clear, and though the songs are very much populated by images of angels, heaven, inspiration, church, thoughts of departed mothers, and speculations on the afterlife, they're imparted with dignity that avoids pathos. It's a good place to find two consistent albums of this nature on one CD, the no-frills packaging notwithstanding.