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This One Is II

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Album Review

Ralph Stanley II has some big boots to fill, but he wisely avoids doing anything that will beg comparisons to his father. His music displays obvious bluegrass and old-time acoustic roots, but he brings a honky tonk country flavor to his arrangements that makes them sound modern without forsaking the music's heritage. "Cold Shoulder" opens things with a forlorn lament that's halfway between hardcore country and bluegrass. Randy Kohrs' sobbing Dobro, Stanley's gruff vocal, and the backing harmony vocals sprinkle hopeless teardrops into every syllable. Lyle Lovett's murder ballad "L.A. County" gets an understated bluegrass arrangement that intensifies its rage and anger. "Loretta," a cryptic love song by Townes Van Zandt, benefits from Stanley's sincere vocal and the band's understated picking, particularly Kohrs' Dobro and Adam Steffey's mandolin. "Moms Are the Reason Wild Flowers Grow" is pure bluegrass, a sentimental ballad about family and loss augmented by Tim Crouch's mournful fiddle. There are only two originals here, but they show Stanley has the right stuff in abundance. "Lord Help Me Find the Way" deals with his struggle to find his own way in the business and honor the legacy of his father, while "Honky Tonk Way" is a portrait of bandmembers playing to an empty club and wondering if they'll ever make a living. Songs about the musician's life are the bane of country music, usually cliché-laden embarrassments, but Stanley manages to avoid sounding like a sentimental sap — no mean feat. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Biography

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Imagine having to live up to a father's legacy that includes 55 years spent at the top of a very public profession, plus more than 100 recordings. Those are some huge shoes to fill when the father is Ralph Stanley, a bluegrass giant who simply shines on the banjo. His son, Ralph Stanley II, aka "Two," no doubt suffered from a fair share of apprehension when he decided to become a musician, too. As he began his own solo career, however, his recordings made his journey seem almost effortless. Critics...
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