The latest Rebel release, a Ralph Stanley compilation CD called Old-Time Pickin’, is one of Dave’s recent projects. Freeman culled through the label’s extensive back catalog of Stanley’s music and selected 18 tracks that highlight the good doctor’s clawhammer banjo plying. This is a side of Ralph that fully emerged when he starting working as a solo artist after his brother’s death in 1966, and most Ralph Stanley albums in the 1970s contained at least one track with the old time style banjo.
Serious Stanley collectors will recognize these title: Rocky Island, Shout Little Lulu, Little Birdie, Bound To Ride, Shady Grove, John Henry. All feature the mountain roots of the Stanley sound, both with his voice and the banjo – the way he initially learned to play as a child.
This new CD offers a great way to have all these old time Stanley songs in a neat little package, with three tracks never before released on CD. Audio samples are available in iTunes.
UPDATE 6:00 p.m. Mark Freeman at Rebel has told me that not all of the tracks on Old Time Pickin’ are from back catalog projects.
“Half of the songs on the collection are previously unreleased cuts that Ralph only recently recorded. Most of them come from an aborted clawhammer album he was working on for us back in 2001. After the success of O’ Brother he signed his deal with Sony and the clawhammer project went unfinished. We took the strongest tracks from those sessions and combined them with the material from his older Rebel albums.”