06 September 2007

My Pal, Ralph Stanley

Because my sister feels that she was maligned yesterday (some of us call that the truthful reporting of cold, hard facts), I thought that today I'd write about something wonderful she discovered and shared with me. First, though, you need some background.

My mom knows every song in the world. Every one. She has a song for any occasion. When I was an angsty adolescent she taught me The Merry Minuet by the Kingston Trio. (She also read us Dorothy Parker poetry when I was in high school. She's a good mama.) When we were little, she sang to us before we went to bed and she sings while she does housework and she sings rounds with us on road trips and she sings in the grocery store (sometimes, we have to rein her in at the grocery store and ask her to please STOP singing).

And, because we're from the South (and I'm talking about having Appalachian roots, not just living there for a while), my siblings and I were raised right and know good biscuits and gravy when we see them AND we know the lyrics to all kinds of good, old Southern songs that are great for belting out in the car while driving around windy, country roads. People sometimes comment that all the songs we learned in childhood are about death and adultery. Those are Southern specialties. In a really good Southern ballad, you get death AND adultery. (The adultery usually comes first and precipitates the death.)

So, this is all to say that I appreciate the Southern music tradition (and old men who say "chur up") and if you have any appreciation for it at all, you will love Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Sweethearts CD, discovered by my crawfish-eating sister.

Some of the best selections on the CD are "Loving You Too Well" with Dolly Parton, "Rank Stranger" with Gail Davies, "Angel Band" (my dad and Madame 4-yr-old are especially fond of this one), and "Farther Along" with Lucinda Williams. Mom, my sister, and I all love "Farther Along." Mom taught it to me in high school, and I sang it to myself almost every day in my wicked geometry class, where half the class spent the entire hour every day making our teacher cry. Every. Day.

An excellent DVD to check out if you do like Clinch Mountain Sweethearts (and what right-thinking person wouldn't?) is Down from the Mountain, a recording of a benefit concert featuring the music and performers from O Brother, Where Art Thou.

And then maybe you should go to Dollywood. But we'll discuss that on another day.

2 comments:

James said...

who was your geometry teacher?

MBC said...

Her last name was Rosenberg. She'd been teaching at the community college and the year she taught my class was her first year in high school. I hope it was her last (for her sake), because it wasn't really her scene.

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