Friday, January 08, 2010

I just finished Man of Constant Sorrow by Ralph Stanley and Eddie Dean.

It's obvious from reading it that it is really Eddie Dean writing up and connecting together stories told to him by Dr. Stanley. At times, there are sentences or pieces of stories repeated in different chapters but 0ther than that, he does a very good job of weaving the stories together into a coherent narrative.

Like all autobiographies, this book can be a little too self serving. Ralph clearly sees himself as someone who says it the way he sees it, and he has a lot of regard for himself as a musician and a "living legend". It also has some holes that you wouldn't find in a more objective biography - there is only a single sentence mentioning his first marriage and his son, Ralph Stanley II, is only mentioned briefly in the last chapter.

I am a huge fan of the Stanley Brothers -- they are my favourite bluegrass band, by far -- so the earlier parts of the books were very interesting to me. Learning where some of their songs came from, and about the hard times they lived through, even up to and past Carter's death, as well as a lot of other facts about their lives, probably wouldn't suit some audiences but it was perfect for me.

Most of the other original bluegrass stars, like Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, and Jimmy Martin, are gone and it is a shame we don't have a record of their stories as told by them. It is a great thing for bluegrass that at least one of them went on the record and told it like they saw it.

Highly recommended for bluegrass fans.

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