Nathan Stanley - My Kind of Country
By: Dan MacIntosh
Even without hearing Nathan Stanley’s new CD, it wouldn’t be too hard to guess his kind of country. After all, he’s the grandson of bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley. Although there are touches of bluegrass contained within this healthy 21-song release, the track list is mostly made up of classic country songs.
Stanley’s kind of country is about a few decades old, at least from the looks of this album. He sings a couple of Johnny Cash songs (“Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Still Miss Someone”) as well as a pair associated with Buck Owens (“Love’s Gonna Live Here Again” and “Act Naturally”). For the most part, he gets these re-takes right. However, one might quibble with the lightheartedness of “Folsom Prison Blues.” If someone were stuck in prison noticing free people roll by every day, would they really act this giddy? Probably not.
There is a ton of guest stars on this disc – many as old has these hits. Little Jimmy Dickens (along with Rhonda Vincent) gets silly with “May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose,” while Marty Stuart and his wife Connie Smith join in for “Long Black Veil.” In fact, 16 of these 21 songs sport guest vocalists! One has to wonder why such a young man needs so many veterans to help him out. Isn’t this the sort of thing that happens when a guy gets to be the rip old age where all his followers are allowed to pay him tribute?
Say what you will about this album’s long guest list, but you cannot argue with its traditional country sounds. Stanley is clearly carrying the torch passed down to him from his grandfather. Interestingly, Stanley’s voice is pure and high, much like his singing partner, Vince Gill on “The White Dove.” For those of us that weren’t around to hear the younger Ralph Stanley – who now sounds as old as he is – it’s a treat to imagine what The Stanley Brothers must have sounded like in their prime, and in the context of a modern studio recording.
The fact that Dierks Bentley could have so much success with a recent contemporary bluegrass album bodes well for the music’s future. At least Nathan Stanley hasn’t gone the way of Jason Aldean. We really don’t need a hick AC/DC. Really, we don’t. What we really need to hear from the younger Stanley is something along the lines of Bentley’s landmark release. If he only sings the old songs, along with old guys, he’s only going to attract…well…the old.
My Kind of Country stands up well on its own merits, no matter what you may think about what it represents for traditional country in general. There’s great singing, great playing and great songs. With a name like Stanley, Nathan certainly has a lot to live up to. Thank goodness, he hasn’t embarrassed the family name. If his kind of country isn’t your kind of country, it ought to be. Perhaps these fine recordings will get into the hands of artists and fans alike that have forgotten what the good stuff sounds like. And if that happened, even to a few, that’d be my kind of conclusion.