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Ralph Stanley roams on

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2006

Page 4...

That hasn't always been the case for Stanley because in June 2005, he underwent heart surgery, keeping him off the road for several months and requiring a long recuperation period.

"I think as far as the surgery now, I'm all over it. It affects you, the way you feel. I don't feel as good as I used to before that. The doctor turned me loose (a month ago) and told me to come see him in a year, and everything was fine. I don't feel any effects from that surgery right now except getting tired a little easier."

With this project behind him, Stanley appears hesitant to commit to more, though Ehrlich is pushing him hard. "He wants me to do about 48 songs for a boxed set. Maybe I can do that many. Maybe I can't. I don't intend to do too much more. In one way, I just think I've recorded enough. I don't think my voice is as good. A lot of people saying it's sounding better. It's just a little harder. I just don't know. It just depends on how my health goes and how I feel, if I feel like it."

"He wants me to do some old time songs, a lot of songs that Carter and me did maybe 40 or 50 years ago, just some old stuff."

"We may do something in the fall or winter," he says of recording.

One aspect that seems to have fallen by the wayside for Stanley is songwriting. "I haven't wrote (sic) anything in a long time," he says. "I just can't get it on my mind. I don't feel (like it). It just don't hit me to write any more."

Stanley has enjoyed a very lengthy career with acclaim early and late. The "O Brother" phenomenon even surprised Stanley, bringing him a whole new audience. "I think 'O Brother' is responsible for that. It's helped old time music."

But while some music can be a fad, that didn't seem to be the case with the Appalachian, bluegrass, acoustic and old time music from "O Brother." In fact, the genres seem to be growing.

"I think it's kept going, and I don't know why. It seemed like I'm just gaining a larger audience all the time. But I guess that's what started it. I'm still just reaching a lot of people that I never did before. It seems like it's holding on. It's holding its own."

"The effects from 'O Brother' was a big surprise. I never thought that would ever do that much good for this old time music. I didn't think young people four or five years old would ever request 'O Death',' but a lot of young people like it."

It seems to keep Stanley going. "Everybody I talk to, says, 'don't quit. Keep going'."

Do you listen to your fans? "As long as you can," says Dr. Ralph.

"You can't sit down and give up," Stanley says. "You got to keep moving."

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