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RALPH STANLEY II 'Listen To My Hammer Ring'

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With the release of his solo debut "Listen To My Hammer Ring," Ralph Stanley II has safely ensured that the "Stanley Sound," which has been dominant in Bluegrass music for better than 50 years, will continue well on into the next century. As the lead singer of the Clinch Mountain Boys, "II," as he is known by many of his fans, more than holds his own with some notable musicians who once held that position before him, including Larry Sparks, Keith Whitley, and Charlie Sizemore. "Listen To My Hammer Ring" contains a satisfying mixture of old Stanley classics like "Katie Daley" and "Highway of Regret" as well as a couple of crossover numbers like "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" and "Another Song, Another Drink." The highlight of the album, however, is the first ever recording of Mary, Merry Christmas. This poignant tune is the last known work of II's legendary uncle Carter who wrote it only weeks before his untimely death during the holiday season of 1966. It is a very moving piece, performed passionately by II in memory of his uncle. An added bonus to the album is the contributions made by Ralph Sr. and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Ralph's vocals are as lonesome as ever and the current Clinch Mountain Boys lineup, featuring James Alan Shelton on lead guitar, Steve Sparkman on banjo, James Price on fiddle, and Jack Cooke on bass, is Ralph's tightest group in several years. Joe Issacs makes a special appearance singing harmonies on "Strolling In The Moonlight" and former Clinch Mountain Boy John Rigsby returns briefly to add his mandolin and vocals on a few of the tracks.