Various Artists

Long Journey Home: Bluegrass Songs of the Stanley Brothers

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By the time this album was compiled and released in late 2002, Ralph Stanley had become a household name. But his work with his brother Carter between 1946 and 1966 remains known primarily to hardcore bluegrass aficionados -- and to their fellow musicians, who for decades have paid the Stanley Brothers the highest possible compliment by recording their songs. This mid-price collection brings together recordings of 12 Stanley Brothers numbers made for the Rounder label by some of bluegrass music's heaviest hitters, including Jim & Jesse McReynolds (whose rendition of "Long Journey Home" features one of Jesse McReynolds' most electrifying mandolin solos), the Johnson Mountain Boys, Ricky Skaggs, and the Dry Branch Fire Squad. Neo-grass stalwarts Hot Rize deliver a very fine version of the slightly creepy gospel classic "Rank Strangers," while Ricky Skaggs falls just a bit flat with his lackluster rendition of "Say, Won't You Be Mine." And yes, the inevitable "Man of Constant Sorrow" is here too, in a top-notch version by Tim O'Brien with banjo virtuoso Tony Furtado. The 12-dollar list price makes this album's half-hour length a bit easier to swallow, but a few more tracks would have been nice.

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