Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers

Highly influenced by the Monroe Brothers, the Stanley Brothers are often considered the third of the top three bluegrass acts (Flatt and Scruggs being the other, naturally), but given the quality of this compilation, I would say that Carter and Ralph could easily be a contender for the number 1 slot!

But they obviously owe much to the other two groups. Having started as copiers of the Monroe "sound", Ralph later picked up Scruggs' style of melodic and tasteful banjo picking (though he does not play at Earl's super-sonic speed), but when Carter (on guitar) started writing original material, they really came into their own. With the addition of Darrell "Pee Wee" Lambert on "high baritone" and mandolin, the three part harmonies - with Carter's lead and Ralph's tenor - gave them a sound unlike any others. While other acts may have relied on vocal harmonies (such as the Louvin Brothers) or instrumental prowess (Flatt and Scruggs), the Stanley Brothers combine the two to create some of the best bluegrass sounds around!

These recordings date from the beginning of their career through their stint with Columbia - from 1949 through 1952 and include religious numbers like "Gathering Flowers for the Master's Bouquet" and "Have You Someone (In Heaven Waiting)", semi-secular tunes like "We'll Be Sweethearts in Heaven", love songs like "Pretty Polly" and "Sweetest Love" and classics like "I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow". Once again I need to reference O Brother Where Art Thou since it is obvious that the movie took this arrangement as the basis for the highlight of that film.

This is truly one of my favorite recent finds - absolutely fantastic, traditional bluegrass. Amazon is currently selling this 22 song disc for the absurdly low price of $3.99 so you have no excuse not to get it. What are you waiting for?!