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Long Journey Home

The Stanley Brothers

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Album Review

In the early 1960s, when the Stanley Brothers were between record labels, they spent a week playing at Johnny's Used Cars near Baltimore. Johnny Wilbanks loved bluegrass music and used it as a sales device, paying bands to play in his lot and sponsoring a radio show that broadcast from his office. He also ran the small Wango label, for which the Stanleys recorded four albums after their parking lot engagement. This is the second of those four, originally issued as Wango 104 and reissued on LP by County in 1972 and on CD by Rebel in 1990. The material is classic Stanley Brothers: "Pretty Polly," "Rabbit in a Log," and the well-known title track. The other three albums in the series focused on gospel material, but this one is strictly secular and prominently features Ralph Stanley's flying-ice-chips banjo style and, even better, the pioneering cross-picking of guitarist George Shuffler on excellent performances of "Wildwood Flower" and "Will You Miss Me." But, as always, the most powerful moments are those that find Ralph Stanley's melismatic mountain tenor taking center stage, as on "Pretty Polly." A must for Stanley fans.

Biography

Formed: 1947 in Virginia

Genre: Country

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s

If you even think you know bluegrass, you have to know Ralph (born 1927) and Carter Stanley (born 1925), the Stanley Brothers. Parallel to Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, though not with their renown, were Virginians Ralph and Carter, mountain boys who took those mountains and their traditions and their songs and wove them into a traditional bluegrass sound of utter purity, simplicity, and astonishing beauty. Their first band, formed around 1947, played more of a mountain/folk...
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