Ralph Stanley II
This One Is Two
Lonesome Day Records
3.5 stars (out of 5)
With more than a dozen years as lead singer for his father’s Clinch Mountain Boys and four solo albums done in the same mountain bluegrass style, it’s perhaps not surprising that Ralph Stanley II – “Two” for short – would want to venture out in search of a sound of his own.
After all, one of his musical heroes, Keith Whitley, took the same path. With This One Is Two, Stanley has crafted a sound that fans of Whitley, or even Lefty Frizzell, will be drawn to.
The album features straightforward country arrangements executed by an all-star bluegrass lineup of Tim Crouch (fiddle and guitar), Cody Kilby (guitar), Randy Kohrs (resophonic guitar), Harold Nixon (bass), Adam Steffey (mandolin) and Ron Stewart (banjo).
With such expert backing, and free from the constraints imposed by the requirements of bluegrass harmony, Stanley sounds comfortable and confident in his vocal choices.
Song choice is another strength, with Garth Brooks’ truck-driving tune “Cold Shoulder,” Tom T. Hall’s upbeat “Train Songs” and Townes Van Zandt’s bittersweet “Loretta” all getting fine treatment. Elton John’s tuneful “Georgia” and a duet with Jim Lauderdale on the Lyle Lovett killin’ song “L.A. County” stand out as the most memorable of 11 strong tracks, including two co-written by Stanley.
One hopes This One is one of many to come in the same rich vein.
by Aaron Keith Harris