Ralph Stanley’s voice can make a godless man wish he could believe. He can make a rootless man long for the old homeplace, even if he never really had one. He can fill anybody’s once-familiar world with rank strangers and make a man feel the guilt and despair of being gone far too long, even if he really has never been anyplace much. And in a world of dysfunctional families, no-fault divorces and unresolved Freudian ambiguities, he can make a man remember the worst of families fondly and hope – at least for the duration of a song – he will be reunited with his momma and daddy and all the rest of them on that heavenly shore someday.
Bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley has died at the age of 89. His final album was 2015's Ralph Stanley and Friends: Man of Constant Sorrow produced by Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale. You can read the 2001 Ace archive on Dr. Ralph Stanley here. In it, Walter Howerton wrote: