Hooked on Bluegrass

Mary Yeomans

My addiction began back in 1982 at the Berkshire Mountain Bluegrass Festival (in Cooperstown, NY -- that year!) when Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys took the stage. The lineup for that festival was a who's who of bluegrass music -- and they al put on terrific shows -- but from the first word I ever heard Ralph sing, I was addicted to the Stanley sound.

The power of Ralph's voice over me grows stronger with the years, and though I love the singing and playing of so many other individuals and bands, and certainly revere Monroe and his music, nobody can twist my heart into a knot and then make it flop around like a grounded fish like Ralph. Whoa. He has the Power. He has an ancient, archaic sound that's not like anyone else. When I hear Ralph ... well, there's no mistaking him.

I'm so thankful that I've been blessed to live in the days of Ralph Stanley -- so I could hear -- and see -- him sing -- and even be fortunate enough to call him friend. Thankful to have spoken at length to him about his faith and the rock on which his spirituality is built. Stanley music -- especially the gospel and songs about lost love -- is one of the greatest joys of my entire life, and I expect I'll be saying that till my dying day.

When I first heard Ralph -- me, a Yankee city girl who didn't even care for country music -- I felt that I knew the songs he was singing, even the lyrics. Now, I don't believe in reincarnation -- not really -- but I must admit that I've been wondering about that ever since. Maybe my soul just connected with the music. But it sure made me wonder if this was my second time around ... like maybe I was a mountain girl in my former life.

Anyway, I didn't ease into bluegrass or mountain music with any of that namby-pamby, city slicker, watered-down, Joni Mitchell self-indulgent vein of the music that's now called bluegrass ... I had full immersion by fire from the Stanley Sound. Thank God.

(posted 12/10/2003)

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