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Ralph Stanley

Great High Mountain – 2004 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

This is a collection of Ralph Stanley recordings from 1971-1996 including one previously unreleased number ("Wild Geese Cry Again"). This CD is a great Stanley retrospective, but it also features several tracks with the late Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs and the late Roy Lee Centers. Several songs were previously unvailable on CD.

The centerpiece is his 1973 recording of "Great High Mountain." Sung a capella, it's a number that rivets your attention (and is included in the Great High Mountain tour by another artist). But you can't find a bad song here, although "I've Got A Mule To Ride" is probably the least appealing. From Whitley's lead on "Home In The Mountains" to Charlie Sizemore singing "Who Will Call You Sweetheart" to Dr. Ralph's lead on "I've Always Been A Rambler," you have a wonderful cross section of Stanley's music after brother Carter's death.

Stanley's music is often characterized as mountain-style as much as bluegrass; you hear the mountains in Stanley's voice than any other on the CD. His a capella versions of "Turn Back, Turn Back" and "Amazing Grace" evoke visions of a Sunday congregation in some Appalachian mountain valley. Regardless of flavor, this compilation shows why Ralph Stanley has been a force in bluegrass music for decades.