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Waxed - Record Review from Issue #8 March-April 1997

Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys

Short Life of Trouble: Songs of Grayson and Whitter (Rebel)

G.B. Grayson and Henry Whitter had a brief but incredibly influential career. Hailing from southwest Virginia, they were a fiddle and guitar duo who played music that was native to their mountain surroundings. Their recording career lasted only from 1927 to 1929. Included among the 40 sides they committed to disc is “Train 45”, which sold around 50,000 copies when it was released in 1927 and remains one of the best-selling old-time music recordings of all time. They also recorded such old-Lee Highway Blues”, “Nine Pound Hammer” and what was supposedly the first-ever recorded version of the famed murder ballad “Tom Dooley”. In 1930, Grayson and Whitter appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. Just as it seemed their career was about to take off, Grayson was killed in an automobile accident.

The Stanley Brothers and every bluegrass band of the Stanleys’ time had deep roots in the old-time music of the Appalachians, and Grayson and Whitter were a large part of that. With Short Life of Trouble, Ralph Stanley pays handsome tribute to the duo. Although he’s celebrating 50 years as a performer, Stanley has lost none of his musical vitality. His voice may have worn some with age, but it still crackles with that high lonesome sound. As you would expect from one of the last living legends of bluegrass, Stan_ley’s current group of Clinch Moun_tain Boys is a top notch group of pickers. James Price’s fiddle and Steve Sparkman’s banjo catch the ear throughout with their leads and solos. The only problem one might have with this collection is that its 12 tracks clock in at a little more than 29 minutes, which seems a bit short. But that’s a minor gripe. We can only be thankful to Stanley for his decision to assure that the sweet music of Grayson and Whitter remains alive.

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Originally Featured in Issue #8 March-April 1997

Cover of Issue #8 March-April 1997

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