0 4 min 11 yrs


ralph stanley banjo close up

Now there are many of opportunities to catch just any old concert. How many opportunities do you have to see a legend? I had one last night at The Barns at Wolf Trap when I saw Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Let me tell you it was exciting from the very moment those six gentlemen walked out on stage. The legendary Dr Ralph Stanley himself was standing there with his bright white cowboy hat ready to sing. I was in for a real treat.

Of the rest of the band they included, Nathan Stanley (guitar, vocals), Dewy Brown (fiddle, vocals), Jimmy Cameron (bass, vocals, and bus driver), James Alan Shelton (guitar, vocals), Mitchell Van Dyke (banjo). They sounded as good as good could sound. Nathan Stanley would pause and say “now Mitchell I know you can play faster than that, why don’t you play at 100 miles per hour” and Mitchell Van Dyke would start plucking that banjo as quick as could be. It just made you want to stomp and clap maybe let out a little shout. Now what I would call the most special moment of the evening, the Clinch Mountain Boys left the stage. The lights dimmed and it was just Dr Ralph Stanley by his lonesome. He performed “O Death” in cappella. His voice is so distinct and unique; you could feel the lyrics pulling you in. It actually sounded like a melodious plea for life. This song was featured in the motion picture soundtrack O Brother, Where art Thou? This won Ralph Stanley a 2002 Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.


Another great song was “Orange Blossom Special”; Dewy Brown took the spot light in this one. He would start off by making his violin sound like a train. He would then have at it, playing ridiculously fast violin solos. It was great; I clapped several times before the song was even over. Every song was great; they played so many of them I can’t even go through them all (my revue would be ten pages long). Some of them included “Angel Song”, “Good Old Mountain Dew”, “Katie Daley” a whole bunch. It was interesting they didn’t have any type of set list so they pretty much just took request for the majority of the evening. That was a lot of fun.

This was an amazing performance with extraordinary musicians. All of them, I didn’t even get a chance to mention how good James Alan Shelton’s guitar playing was. Some of the best I ever heard, honestly (and I have heard a lot). It’s like there a cast of all star musicians put together to form a super group. They played for a good bit too; the whole show was almost three hours long. This was to behold, I knew I had just experienced Americana at its finest.

TRR Concert Review and Photography by Alan J. Duckworth

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