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Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys

Cry From the Cross – 2001 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys

Whether it is the direct effect of the successful "O Brother, Where Art Thou" soundtrack over the past year or just one of those serendipitous occurrences, the floodgates have been opened recently for a spate of Ralph Stanley reissues. This album, one of three out about the same time, represents several career milestones and contains some of his best work, a significant statement for an artist whose output numbers over a hundred releases.

"Cry From The Cross" was Stanley's first album for the Rebel label, and his first gospel release to utilize the Primitive Baptist sound, a raw southern gospel style that featured sparse instrumentation and plenty of vocal harmonies. Recorded only a scant four years after embarking on his post-Stanley Brothers solo career following the death of Carter Stanley, there are plenty of echoes of the Brothers sound and repertoire. The title cut is a remake of a Stanley Brothers tune, and several other tracks were written by the brothers but not recorded or released by them. Stanley's band, a shifting ensemble over the years, still featured fiddle player Curly Ray Cline, but new to the group were Roy Lee Centers, Jack Cooke, Ricky Skaggs, and Keith Whitley. Those are familiar names to bluegrass fans now, but in 1971 they were fresh faces in the Stanley camp, lending a youthful vitality to the old-time gospel sound.