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‘King of mountain soul’: ECA hosts Ralph Stanley tribute

 

Last updated 10/20/2016 at Noon

Jim Lauderdale

If you’re a fan of the late, great bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, who died in June at age 89, there’s no better place to be than right here in Edmonds on Saturday, Oct. 22.

“A Tribute to Dr. Ralph Stanley” at the Edmonds Center for the Arts will honor the history and legacy of Stanley’s Appalachian and bluegrass music. The show features Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Jim Lauderdale with Stanley's grandson, Nathan Stanley, who performed with his grandfather and led his Clinch Mountain Boys Band.

“People called him the king of mountain soul,” said Lauderdale, a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter who has performed in Seattle but is making his debut in Edmonds. “He had an ancient sound even in his 20s. There was something worldly, haunting and mournful in his voice. It was distinctive and unique.”

Lauderdale, 59, who lives in Nashville, was a close friend of Stanley’s. He wrote 14 songs for him, and they recorded two CDs together: “I Feel Like Singing” and “Lost in the Lonesome Pines.” Lauderdale says he’ll sing several of the songs he wrote for Stanley. He’ll also perform tunes from his own catalog, which includes his most recent work, “This Changes Everything,” released Sept. 30.

The audience will hear plenty of songs from Stanley’s catalog, which includes “Man of Constant Sorrow,” “Oh Death,” “Pretty Polly” and “Rank Stranger.” “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Oh Death” were both recorded for the cult classic “O Brother Where Art Thou?” starring George Clooney and John Turturro.

Stanley gained initial recognition in the 1940s, performing with older brother Carter in the Clinch Mountain Boys. The relationship ended with Carter’s death in 1966.

“The Stanley brothers were such a big influence on a lot of duo singers,” said Lauderdale, who has a show called “The Buddy and Jim Show,” with Buddy Miller, on Sirius radio’s Outlaw Country channel.

“When Carter died, Ralph was devastated. Carter was the front man; he did the talking, and Ralph was reserved and shy. He mulled about continuing to play. He’d had a lot of hardships, and bluegrass hadn’t grown to the status it would have. It was a hard line on the road just to make ends meet. Ralph would go on, of course, and had to become frontman and band leader, playing with a succession of great musicians in the Clinch Mountain Boys.”

Stanley was a huge influence on Lauderdale, of course, whose talents as a songwriter are well-known in the country and pop world. He’s written for a diverse group – Elvis Costello, the Dixie Chicks, Vince Gill, Mark Chesnutt, Patty Loveless and George Strait.

It was just last month that Strait presented Lauderdale with the WagonMaster Lifetime Achievement award at the Americana Honors and Awards show.

“I was already a fan of George Strait when he began recording my songs," says Lauderdale, "and his support really opened up a lot of doors for me. It allowed me to make the kind of music I want to make, and release it the way I want to release it. It allowed me to create. This award is one of the most important things to happen to me, in my life and my career.”

Lauderdale’s latest CD, his 29th, is pure Americana.

“Americana really fits into what I do,” he said. “It encompasses bluegrass, country, country-rock, folk, rock, roots rock, soul and R&B. This new record I would call a hard country record. It’s tradition-based, heavy on pedal steel, Telecaster (electric) guitar and fiddle. There’s a strong thread between bluegrass and traditional country.”

The CD includes the song “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This,” a Top 5 country hit for Strait.

Lauderdale said he’ll perform that song in Edmonds.

“Anyone familiar with my songs and wants to call one out, I’ll play that too.”

Just don’t expect to hear Stanley’s distinctive voice. Lauderdale has his own style.

“When I was teenager, I played banjo and sang his songs. You might hear a flavor of Ralph’s voice when I sing, but there is no way I could ever duplicate it. It was one of a kind.”

A Tribute to Dr. Ralph Stanley

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22 Where: Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N, Edmonds Tickets: $19-$54 Information: 425-275-9595, www.ec4arts.org

 

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