Distant Land to Roam: Songs of the Carter Family

A Distant Land to Roam: Songs of the Carter Family

by Ralph Stanley
     
 

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Few living artists can say they saw the original Carter Family perform; fewer still can boast of actually playing with A.P., Sara, and Maybelle. Ralph Stanley has done both. Hailing from the same Clinch Mountain area as the Carters and possessing the same intimate knowledge of mountain living, Stanley makes a tribute to the original country trio that's a marked…  See more details below

Overview

Few living artists can say they saw the original Carter Family perform; fewer still can boast of actually playing with A.P., Sara, and Maybelle. Ralph Stanley has done both. Hailing from the same Clinch Mountain area as the Carters and possessing the same intimate knowledge of mountain living, Stanley makes a tribute to the original country trio that's a marked improvement over his morose debut for T-Bone Burnett's DMZ label and closer in spirit and style to his great Rebel recordings. With the buoyant support of his Clinch Mountain Boys (supplemented by Mike Seeger on autoharp and Dennis Crouch on bass), Stanley gets close to the earth on the stately "Longing for Home" and sounds appropriately jubilant on a driving, mid-tempo version of the exhilarating spiritual number "God Gave Noah a Rainbow." With Steve Sparkman and Mark Meade stepping lively on banjo and fiddle, respectively, Stanley digs into "Worried Man Blues" with a certain zest and enthusiastically delivers "Keep on the Firing Line" with an energetic mandolin solo from John Rigsby. Subtle but potent, Ralph Stanley touches all the places of the heart on this disc.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
When Victor Records field engineer Ralph Peer arrived in Bristol, TN, in the summer of 1927, he had a mission to record every rural Southern musician he could find. By the time he left Bristol, Peer had recorded 76 songs by 19 different acts and had set the cornerstones for the future of country music, a genre that had yet to be recognized or defined. Among the acts he recorded in that little Virginia/Tennessee border town were a trio consisting of two young girls and a sawmill worker from Virginia -- A.P. Carter, his wife Sara Carter, and Sara's cousin Maybelle Carter -- or the Carter Family, as they came to be known. A.P. was a song collector, and whether he had a particular fascination with songs about loss, loneliness, and mortality or those were simply the sorts of songs he heard in his Appalachian travels is a matter for the scholars and historians to decide, but the Carter Family's extensive catalog of traditional southern songs was full to the brim with tragic train wrecks, murders, and all manner of misfortune, and featured a profound yearning for deliverance and redemption. These were the songs that fellow Virginian Ralph Stanley and his brother Carter Stanley grew up with, and when they began their professional career as the Stanley Brothers, the Carter Family tunes were a staple of their act from the start. In 2006, at the age of 79, Ralph Stanley has dedicated a whole album to the Carter Family material he has lived with and loved all of his life. A Distant Land to Roam isn't really a bluegrass album, with only the chugging version of "Worried Man Blues" crossing anywhere near the normal velocity of most contemporary bluegrass, but is instead a sort of hybrid between the Carter Family's original stark string band arrangements and a good old back porch country-folk band, all given a chiming, old-timey feel thanks largely to the presence of Mike Seeger's autoharp on most of the tracks. The feel of loneliness and immense distance that permeates this set comes partly from the songs that A.P. was drawn to, but also from Stanley's trademark singing, which carries an uncanny amount of weariness, desperation, resignation, and sheer dogged wisdom in nearly every note. Although Stanley's voice admittedly isn't as strong as it use to be, the ragged and shaky edges to his delivery here only gives these songs an added presence, depth, and forlorn immediacy. These, after all, were the songs he was born to sing, and they benefit from the frayed margins, sounding freshly revealed. The obvious centerpiece of A Distant Land to Roam is Stanley's amazing version of "Motherless Children," which starts with Stanley's unaccompanied vocal before it is joined and supported by Todd Meade's funereal fiddle line, resulting in a sad, transcendent, and unforgettable performance. A remarkably consistent and coherent sequence, this release shows exactly how vital and durable the Carter Family tradition and Ralph Stanley both continue to be.
Boston Globe - Jonathan Perry
A bracing, wonderfully illuminating journey through history and hardscrabble lives. Backed by his top-notch band, the Clinch Mountain Boys...Stanley delivers sturdy yet loving readings of the songs that set his life in motion and shaped his professional career.
Austin Chronicle - Jim Caligiuri
1/2 While his voice isn't as strong as it once was, its tattered nature lends the music a depth and desolation that amplifies the subject matter.
Hartford Courant - Thomas Kintner
[Stanley] is an ideal interpreter of the Carter catalog, for his understanding of the circumstances behind its songs and his own invaluable lifetime of experience.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/30/2006
Label:
Sony Mod - Afw Line
UPC:
0827969362921
catalogNumber:
93629
Rank:
215043

Related Subjects

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ralph Stanley   Primary Artist,Vocals
Mike Seeger   Autoharp
Jack Cooke   Vocals
Dennis Crouch   Bass
Steve Sparkman   Banjo
James Alan Shelton   Guitar
John Rigsby   Mandolin,Vocals,Background Vocals
Ralph Stanley   Guitar,Rhythm Guitar
Clinch Mountain Boys   Musician
Todd Meade   Fiddle

Technical Credits

Bob Neuwirth   Producer,Audio Production
T Bone Burnett   Executive Producer
James Alan Shelton   Song Research
Gavin Lurssen   Mastering
Mike Piersante   Engineer
Tracy Baskette-Fleaner   Art Direction
Larry Ehrlich   Arranger,Producer,Liner Notes,Audio Production,Song Research

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