In short, it was wonderful.
Ralph doesn't play much banjo these days. His friend "Arthur Itus," he explained. But the Clinch Mountain Boys is one precision unit. (And that bass player, Danny Davis is one crazy dancer!)
Surprisingly my favorite moment was his a cappella "O Death." When I saw him do this five years ago, it seemed like an obligatory bone to throw at the trendsters who'd never heard of him before O Brother Where Art Thou.
But on Thursday, Dr. Ralph seemed to take the old chant into strange dark dimensions. At the end, after the last "Won't you hold me over for another year?" he sang a solemn "Thank .... yoooooo."
That's when I realized that I'd just witness a man having a conversation.
Later in the show, Stanley said if he lived until Saturday he'd be 79 years old. As far as I know, he made it.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RALPH!!!!!!
As for The Gourds, I loved 'em. I was a little bit worried that they might not get a great reception if there were too many bluegrass purists in the audience. But the crowd seemed pretty impressed.
I do get the impression that they were holding back some in their mainly acoustic set -- probably because of the audience. Several people were disappointed that they didn't play "Gin and Juice." My guess is that they figured that there were probably just a few too many "motherfuckers" in the lyrics for some of the older Ralph Stanley fans at the Lensic.
I didn't really care about that missing crowd-pleaser. My only disappointment is that they didn't do "Ants on the Melon."
But I was happy to hear "Burn the Honeysuckle," "O Rings" and "Cracklin's."
By the way, there's a new Web site for purchasing live Gourds shows. CLICK HERE
No, it's not free like the Live Music Archive, but there's nothing wrong with a band trying to make a little cash from their music. Besides, the prices aren't bad. And if you look hard enough you can find a Gourds version of the Three's Company theme.
Come and knock on their door ...