Ralph Stanley The Very Best Of

It was inevitable that albums such as this would appear in the wake of Stanley's re-emergence via the O Brother Where Art Thou and Down From The Mountain projects. But to call this The Very Best Of? Let's slow down a minute. The bulk of these tracks come from the early 1970s, when Stanley was still configuring his Clinch Mountain Boys in the wake of his brother Carter's death. Of course, the pair are counted among the founders of bluegrass, and their often blazing recordings from the 1940s and 1950s (despite lacking the sonic quality here) will always stand as Stanley's "very best," if that title needs to be thrown around. That said, this album does contain most of the songs Stanley is famous for; "The Lonesome River," "Angel Band," and the O Brother staples "Man Of Constant Sorrow" and "O Death," among them. It was also a period that saw young guns Ricky Scaggs and Keith Whitley in the band, which adds a bit of novelty to the collection. But unless it is impossible to find original versions by the Stanley Brothers, there is little reason to use this unfortunately-titled album as a starting point. (Koch)