Mudcat Café message #2753705 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #124647   Message #2753705
Posted By: Mary Katherine
27-Oct-09 - 12:46 PM
Thread Name: Review: Ralph Stanley performances
Subject: Review: Ralph Stanley live in L.A. 10/25/09
On Sunday night I went with some friends to Royce Hall at UCLA to hear Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys. The concert was billed to start at 7:00, and the opening act, Cherryholmes, started right on time at 7:00 p.m., and at 8:15 p.m. they were still playing; seemed like an unusually long set for an opening act. One of the ushers said that some of the publicity had gone out with a mistake on it, announcing the starting time as 8:00. So the opener had to play long, to make sure that all the people who arrived thinking it was an 8:00 curtain didn't miss any of Ralph Stanley's set.
Cherryholmes (a family group with mom, dad and four kids playing various instruments) were quite entertaining, bouncy, enthusiastic and tight. I had seen them about ten years ago opening for Del McCoury at a church hall in Pasadena, when they were cute little kids who could really play; now they're mostly grown up and can REALLY play. The clear star of the show for me was Cia Cherryholmes, the banjo player and singer with an extraordinary vocal and instrumental command and stage presence. The group's repertoire has drifted some, and there was a lot of non-bluegrass material, all very well executed. But although the audience was very receptive, especially to their showy intrumentals, it was clear that many were eagerly waiting for Dr. Ralph, who came onstage with his band at 8:40 to loud cheers.
For the first five or six songs he did nothing except introduce the band members (James Alan Shelton was a standout on guitar throughout the show) and give the song titles, and I was getting kind of worried - are we only getting Ralph as the emcee tonight? Surely not! Finally he took over the vocal mike, and did a string of duets with band members including his grandson Nathan Stanley and his son, Ralph Stanley II, who was making a special guest appearance that night during what was an off week for his own band. Dr. Ralph only played banjo once, as arthritis has now taken his hands to the extent that he can't play bluegrass style at all and he can only just about manage to clawhammer part of one song, which he did; Steve Sparkman, as usual, handled the regular banjo chores for the band and did a great job. Ralph soloed on two of his staples, the hair-raising a cappella "Oh Death," and "Man of Constant Sorrow," and sang harmony on a lot of other songs, including several from his old Stanley Brothers repertoire with Nathan or Ralph II taking Carter's part. The show ended with all the Cherryholmes members joing the Clinch Mountain Boys onstage for "Orange Blossom Special" and an encore of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."
I always try to get out to hear the elder statesmen when they pass through town, and I am *really* glad that I went to this show. An incredible evening.