- Released: March 12, 1996
- Label: Sbme Special Mkts.
Spin - 6/96, p.117
"...songs like 'The Drunkard's Hell' may be haunted and traditionalist, but the tempos are often jumping and the screeched harmonies almost giddy with the possibilities postwar money had opened up..."
The Stanley Brothers: Carter Stanley (vocals, guitar); Ralph Stanley (vocals, banjo).
Additional personnel: Darrell "Pee Wee" Lambert (vocals, mandolin); George Shuffler (vocals, fiddle, bass); Robert "Bobby" Sumner, Les Woodie (fiddle); James "Jay" Hughes, Ernest "Ernie" Newton (bass)
Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee between 1949 & 1952.
This is part of Legacy's Country Classics series.
This 22-song set brings together the complete recordings that Ralph and Carter Stanley made for Columbia Records between 1949 and 1952. In addition to collecting some of the Stanley Brothers' finest songs, this compilation is also an excellent representation of their inimitable bluegrass sound. With Ralph's superb banjo picking and angelic high tenor complementing Carter's acoustic guitar and clear, emotionally charged lead vocals, the Stanleys took the rootsy sound of Bill Monroe and brought it even deeper into the mountains, evoking the lonely ghost of early rural America.
There are songs here that burn with near-mythic power. Carter's baleful "I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow" and Ralph's grimly tragic "Pretty Polly" are two such examples. There are also songs of acute loneliness ("Too Late to Cry"), meditations on the afterlife ("Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet"), and the occasional sprightly foot-stomper ("Hey! Hey! Hey!), each of which have the indelible feel of a classic. Though accompanied throughout by a bass, mandolin, and fiddle player, it is the dense, ringing harmonies and the sweet, aching quality of the songs that really dazzles. Beautifully restored sound and informative liner notes add to what is already a near-perfect collection.