Dr. Ralph Stanley At Club Passim January 23

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If you’re in the Cambridge/Boston area or can get here without too much fuss, Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will be at Club Passim for one night only, January 23. Tickets are a (to me at least) shocking $125 each, but Dr. Ralph doesn’t get up this way very often, especially to a room as cozy as Passim’s. There are still a few dinner table reservations available, and some general admission seats as well.

Dr. Ralph has been making music for over sixty years, and learned how to play banjo from his mother. He grew up in McClure, Virginia, back in the Clinch Mountains, and began performing with his brother Carter in 1946. He carried on with the band after Carter’s death in 1966, but it was not until 2000, when he appeared in the film O, Brother, Where Art Thou, that his audience widened beyond the usual bluegrass and old-time music fans. Dr. Ralph portrayed a Ku Klux Klan leader in the film, and sang an a cappella version of O, Death that earned him a Grammy award in 2002.

There’s only one Ralph Stanley, and if you can raise the price of admission, you’ll never see him in a more intimate venue than the friendly confines of Club Passim. If you’re not around Cambridge tomorrow, the band’s tour schedule is here. Catch them if you can.

Here’s a video of Reno and Smiley with Carter and Ralph Stanley, executing some beautiful four-part harmonies on Over in the Glory Land. The performance is from 1962, and the sound is far from perfect, but it’s a reminder, as if we needed one, of how beautiful this music can be. Please enjoy.

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