Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ponder: "those old songs don't sugarcoat anything"

"But Ralph always reserved time in each show for a few of the older songs that he would sing himself.  Those were the moments that audience members were most likely to remember afteward.  They were a reminder of a time and place where death and backbreaking work were not hidden out of sight, but were a constant presence.
"I don't put nothing on the song," Ralph told me. "I just sing it the way I feel it.  I just open my mouth and however it sounds, that's the way it comes out.  I try to do it the best I can, but I just try to feel it...Those old songs don't sugarcoat anything.  You don't hear that kind of singing much anymore, but when I was growing up, it was mostly what I heard.  That sound's not spread out everywhere; it's just here in these mountains."

Geoffrey Himes, "If Mount Rushmore Were in Appalachia, This Face Would Be On It."  The Washington Post 25 Jun. 2016, C2.

1 comment:

  1. I always loved Ralph Stanley's work. I hadn't seen him in person since 1966, when we held a memorial concert for Carter Stanley. Where Bill Monroe revived the Celtic roots of what became known as "Bluegrass," Ralph revived the Celtic singing style. Ralph's song, "O, Death," probably goes back 900 years, but is as powerful ever. Like Jacques Brel's "Seasons in the Sun," "O, Death draws on fundamental spiritual doubts.