Nathan Stanley, the grandson of the one-and-only Ralph Stanley, has released a new album, The Legacy Continues, recorded with his grandpa’s band. At 20 years of age, Nathan has already logged more than a decade traveling with The Clinch Mountain Boys and, with this record, he makes a statement about his love for and facility with traditional bluegrass music.
Unlike his earlier CD, My Kind Of Country, which was a tribute to the legends of ’50s and ’60s country music, the focus here is on the sort of soulful grass pioneered by both The Stanley Brothers and later, Ralph Stanley on his own. Nathan’s voice is well suited to this material, and he conveys a passion for the songs uncommon in such a young man. Assisting on tenor vocals is Don Rigsby, no stranger to the Stanley sound. Together this pair runs through some bluegrass classics and a couple of new songs.
The album opens with Are You Missing Me, primarily associated with Jim & Jesse, but much of the material comes from the Stanley songbook. You’ll find Meet Me By The Moonlight, Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine, For All The Love I Had Is Gone, and a new take on Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone with Brad Paisley singing lead on the first two verses. Rambling Letters is one that the Stanley Brothers recorded as I Don’t Want Your Rambling Letters, and calls to mind East Virginia Blues. There is also an uptempo track called Stanley Medley which includes Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Long Journey Home, and Mountain Dew, all staples of Dr. Ralph’s repertoire.
There is a considerable risk in covering these songs, so memorably recorded and sung by the likes of Carter Stanley and Roy Lee Centers, but Nathan delivers them all convincingly and with no attempt to update or revise their style. Interestingly, his voice favors Carter far more than Ralph, but it’s plainly the Stanley sound.
Also strong are young Stanley’s versions of Bill Monroe’s Let Me Rest At The End Of My Journey, Larry Sparks’ Casualty Of War, and Allen Mills’ Love Of The Mountains.
Three new songs are included. Golden Years is a mournful waltz number from Don Rigsby, as is Tears Of A Friend from Jimmy Vaughn. Nathan provides the third, Papaw I Love You, also a waltz, which is a poignant tribute to his grandfather. This one is liable to bring a tear to the eye of fervent Stanley fans, and serve as a signal that their distinctive mountain sound will be with us for some time to come.
The Clinch Mountain Boys, with Junior Blankenship guesting on lead guitar, provide the exact right support. Dewey Brown is on fiddle, Mitchell VanDyke on banjo, and Randall Hibbitts on bass. Tony Dingus also contributes resonator guitar on several tracks.
Nathan is, of course, a full-time member of The Clinch Mountain Boys, appearing alongside his Papaw on all Ralph Stanley shows. More recently, he has begun taking the band out under his own name when Ralph isn’t booked.