Ralph Stanley at the Cedar Cultural Center, 1/10/14

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Mark N. Kartarik

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Friday, January 10, 2014

Greeted with a standing ovation from the passionate audience Friday night at the Cedar, Dr. Ralph Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys graced the stage for what ultimately was an historic occasion, marking his final go around and current farewell tour.

Jumping right in with his signature song from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, the living legend stood stoically, mustering up whatever voice he could on "Man of Constant Sorrow" that drew much fanfare from the sold out room.

See Also: Slideshow: Ralph Stanley at the Cedar, 1/10/14

Stanley, who's turning 87 in February left the picking, grinning and introductions to his grandson, "Prince of Bluegrass" Nathan. He carried the show and has taken the reins as leader of the band. However the focus was on his "Papaw" and the enormous legacy of music he embodies as a pioneer of bluegrass music that dates back to the '40s and his partnership with the late brother, Carter as the Stanley Brothers.

Photos by Mark N. Kartarik

The tightness of the fiddle, banjo, guitar, upright bass, and Nathan Stanley's voice kept the program moving and enraptured the bluegrass enthusiasts present to celebrate the elder Stanley's music and notoriety throughout the night. As much of a spiritual occasion that the music brought, there was also a palatable sense of family as Nathan consistently praised his grandfather and spoke lovingly of all the life and musical lessons he has learned travelling on the road with him since he was only two years old.

Going back and forth greeting the audience Nathan and Ralph sounded encouraged. In a thick Southern drawl they both gave praise, "We just got to say a holler to all our friends here tonight. We feel so much love." With Ralph chiming in, "It's much colder than the last time we were here, but sometimes you take the bitter with the sweet."

With as much gospel spirit the group expressed plaintive renditions of "I've Never Seen the Grace of our Savior" and provided rich, perfect harmony in an a cappella fashion on "One Day I Will."

With several high speed picking instrumentals that displayed each musician's prowess It was the eventual solo vocal performance Ralph delivered with "O Death" that really illustrated the urgency of the evening. With his unmistakably haunting voice it was hard not to recognize the frailty of his presence that wasn't lost on the audience and generated all the more appreciation.

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