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Clinch Mountain Sweethearts

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Album Review

Clinch Mountain Sweethearts can be thought of as a bluegrass version of John Prine's In Spite of Ourselves. Like Prine, Stanley is joined by a number of female singers, both later and classic, on 16 bluegrass gems. In fact, several names — Iris DeMent, Lucinda Williams, and Melba Montgomery — show up on both collections. Maria Muldaur cuts loose and gives it her all on the bluesy "The Memory of Your Smile." When Stanley joins her, the sound is oh so lonesome. DeMent joins the fray on "Ridin' That Midnight Train" and "Trust Each Other," and while both cuts work pretty well, the country inflections in her voice get lost in the up-tempo material. One surprising cut features Chely Wright who, believe it or not, offers a good old-time vocal on "Angel Band" that has almost nothing in common with her trendy Nashville work. Montgomery delivers a gutsy take on Hank Williams' "You Win Again," which is a tad more believable coming from a female point of view. The Clinch Mountain Boys sound great as always. Combining bluegrass and old-time, they find the right groove for each piece and never hurry a song. Clinch Mountain Sweethearts works better than the Prine collection, mostly because Stanley is well-matched with most of his co-singers. When their voices don't match, they stay out of each other's way. Once again, Clinch Mountain Sweethearts finds Stanley making good music by adding a few contemporary touches to mountain traditions. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi


Born: February 25, 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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