Friday, October 16, 2009

Wall St. Journal Review of Ralph Stanley's Book

Picking Through the Past -- A bluegrass master recalls his hardscrabble upbringing and a life in music


Ralph Stanley, the hillbilly (his term) musician best known for his 2002 Grammy-winning rendition of "O Death" in the Coen brothers movie "O Brother Where Art Thou?," may be 82 years old and play songs nearly as ancient as the southwest Virginia hills where he was born (and still lives). But after all these years his tongue is still sharp, as he shows in "Man of Constant Sorrow," a memoir that may send some cowboy hats spinning along Nashville's Music Row. Dr. Stanley, as he likes to be known—the doctorate is honorary, from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.—dispenses a few lashes along with his rollicking account of 60 years as a banjo-picking bluegrass performer, though none will do lasting harm.
Man of Constant Sorrow

Born in Dickenson County, Va., on Feb. 25, 1927, Dr. Stanley came up hard. He describes a Christmas when all he got was an orange and a handful of rock candy. In 1939, his father bolted for a younger woman and "never even said goodbye."

The rest is at

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