Ralph Stanley - Red Clay Ramblers
Contrast in Styles

By Fred Greiner
Victory Music Folk and Jazz Review, December 1977

(Favorite quote: "Stanley’s group represented the tradition, while the Ramblers of North Carolina displayed innovative picking and singing.")

A complete contrast in bluegrass styles was presented in Seattle Nov. 5 by Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys and the Red Clay Ramblers.  From Virginia, Stanley’s group represented the tradition, while the Ramblers of North Carolina displayed innovative picking and singing.   Both groups were roundly applauded by the 800 near capacity crowd at Roosevelt High.  As the warm-up band, the Ramblers certainly pushed the Stanley group, and many listeners felt they outperformed them.  Opening with “Susannah Girl” and “Forked Deer,” the group offered a highly listenable brand of jump and shout music, with Mike Craver--piano & guitar; Jack Herrick--bass, trumpet & flute; Jim Watson--mandolin; Bill Hicks--fiddle; and Tommy Thompson--banjo.  They offered a definitely “modern” bluegrass sound.  Other numbers in their refreshing repertoire included “Hobo’s Last Letter,” “The Chase,” “Daniel Prayed,” “The Parting Hand, “Milwaukee Blues,” and for an encore, a jazzed-up version of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”  Craver’s piano solo of Jack McCoy’s dixie-flavored “Melancholy” earned the biggest round of applause for the night.

Offering a style reminiscent of Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley demonstrated why he has a loyal and respected following with such quality standards as “Lost Train Blues,” “John Henry,” “Put Your Little Hand in Mind,” “Little Maggie,” “Constant Sorrow,” and “Leave Me Alone Little Darlin.”  While not as personable as Monroe, Stanley maintained a good rapport with his audience.  His band showed a mellow, smoothness like well-aged Kentucky bourbon and their well-practiced instrumentals and positive vocals drew good audience response.  They were at their best with such gospel stylings as “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” “Gloryland,” and “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.”  Fiddle player Curley Ray Cline was more than distracting with gaudy dancer jumping around.  But, when he settled down he displayed a championship ability on his rendition of the classic “Orange Blossom Special.”  Besides Stanley and his banjo and the jumping fiddle player, there was Jack Kirk on bass, Keith Whitley on guitar and vocals.

  • Another review of a concert featuring both Ralph Stanley with his Clinch Mountain Boys and the Red Clay Ramblers: Folkscene February 1978
  • Bill Hicks writes about the tour in Blurred Time "A trip with Ralph"
Back Home

June 16, 2005