Nicholas found the Ralph Stanley CD, Short Life of Trouble: Songs of Grayson and Whittier, at one of our finer music outlets in Texarkana, the Goodwill Store. He bought it and a Del McCoury CD for me for Christmas. In this collection, Dr. Stanley sings the songs of a couple of Virginia boys, named Gilliam Grayson and Henry Whitter. Grayson and Whittier are part of the older tradition of bluegrass, mountain, and folk music. By this I mean that they were writing and performing songs back when Ralph and Carter Stanley and even Bill Monroe were all young men. The Stanley Brothers had a long tradition of collecting and recording old songs, and these songs are powerful. As expected, the songs are of love, loss, labor, death, and trains. A fine work of classic music by one of the best artists of our time.
All three of the recording sets called Will the Circle Be Unbroken are great. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band did the first voume of the set years ago. I have it on vinyl records. They brought in the singers they admired and recorded the songs of those people with some on-going commentary, jokes, starts and stops, and spontaneity. The original recording especially featured Mother Maybelle Carter. Her abiding influence is felt on this third production of the band and friends. For these songs, they assembled a number of country, blue grass and other types of musicians. Names include big starts like Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Del McCoury, Tom Petty, and Emmylou Harris. Several of the artists have passed away since this CD collection was released, such as Johnny Cash and June Carter and bluegrass king, Jimmy Martin.
I pulled this CD out of the shelf today because I wanted to hear an old Stanley Brothers song, called "Lonesome River."