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Man of Constant Sorrow

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Album Review

This collection was released to coincide with the release of Joel & Ethan Coen's film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which features Ralph Stanley's a cappella rendition of "Oh, Death" and a number of other traditional bluegrass songs long associated with Stanley, including the immortal "Man of Constant Sorrow." This album brings together 13 classic tracks from the Stanley catalog; highlights include the title track, the absolutely hair-raising "Oh, Death," and a stirring version of "I've Just Seen the Rock of Ages." That last song, recorded in the early '70s, has never been released on CD before and features the lead singing of a very young Keith Whitley, who would later go on to significant success as a country singer. The only quibble one could make with this excellent collection is its length, which, at 33 minutes, is pretty skimpy for a best-of collection. But as an introduction to Ralph Stanley's singular brand of mountain music, you couldn't do better than this album.


Born: 25 February 1927 in Stratton, VA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

While he preferred the term "mountain music" to "bluegrass," Ralph Stanley ranked second only to Bill Monroe in his importance to the genre. A pioneering clawhammer banjoist and riveting singer, Stanley shot to prominence with his brother Carter and the Clinch Mountain Boys in the '40s and '50s. After Carter's death in 1966, Ralph soldiered on, riding waves of popularity in the '60s folk revival and the '70s bluegrass festival scene. In 2000, his a cappella rendering of "O Death" became the musical...
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