Bluegrass mandolinist Don Rigsby salutes Ralph Stanley

Posted by Peter Margasak on Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Don Rigsby
  • Randy Evans, Evans Photography
  • Don Rigsby
Kentucky mandolinist Don Rigsby fills the lengthy liner notes for his latest album, Doctor's Orders: A Tribute to Ralph Stanley (Rebel), with a detailed account of his first encounter with the bluegrass legend the album salutes. He saw Stanley perform live for the first time in 1974, which happened to be his sixth birthday, and if his memories are to be trusted, he was pretty ecstatic in anticipation of the concert. Rigsby's father was friendly with the great singer and guitarist Keith Whitley, who had recently joined the Clinch Mountain Boys: Whitley ended up taking the six-year-old Rigsby backstage to meet Stanley, where he was introduced as his biggest fan. Stanley asked him what his favorite song was, and Rigsby blurted out two, both of which Stanley and his band ended up playing that night.

Rigsby recorded both of them—"Little Maggie" and "The Hills of Home"—for his new album, which features Stanley making a couple of vocal cameos. The album opens with a Rigsby original called "The Mountain Doctor," another homage to Dr. Ralph, but the other 13 songs are bluegrass standards, country classics, and traditional material that have prominently featured in Stanley's vast oeuvre. The album was made with an all-star crew that includes guest appearances from the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Charlie Sizemore, and Larry Sparks. The performances are hard-charging and dynamic, marked by nonchalant virtuosity, excellent vocal harmonies, and a drum-tight ensemble sound. Rigsby makes a rare area appearance on Saturday at Evanston Legion Hall as part of the invaluable Bluegrass Legends Series, performing with his sharp working band Midnight Call: guitarist Clyde Mitchell, banjoist Elmer Burchett, fiddler Matt Hooper, bassist Bobby Davis, and the leader on mandolin and fiddle. Below you can check out his version of "Little Maggie."

Today's playlist:

Gigi Gryce Orch-Tette, Reminiscin' (Mercury, Japan)
David Tudor, John Cage: Music of Changes (Hat Art)
MJT+3, MJT+3 (Argo, Japan)
Kawaguchi Takahiro & Choi Joonyong, Suncheon Hyanggyo (Balloon & Needle)
Earle Brown, Abstract Sound Objects (Wergo)

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Bluegrass standout Don Rigsby will be singing with Alan Jackson on the David Letterman Show on Tuesday, Oct. 29, on CBS. His “high lonesome” tenor voice is considered among the best in the world.

October 21, 2013
Don Rigsby to appear on Letterman, perform at Carnegie Hall
The Morehead News

Oct. 21, 2013 — Don Rigsby will demonstrate his acclaimed, “high lonesome” tenor singing voice for a national television audience on Tuesday, Oct. 29, during an appearance with country music superstar Alan Jackson on the David Letterman Show on CBS.

The night before, Rigsby will be singing harmony with Jackson during a performance at famed Carnegie Hall.

Rigsby sings on each cut of Jackson’s first-ever Bluegrass CD entitled “The Bluegrass Album” which was recently released.

The 45-year-old musician from Isonville in Elliott County will be performing with Jackson on about 30 dates over the next several months.

Rigsby himself has an international following in Bluegrass music.

In addition to singing and playing the mandolin, he also performs on the fiddle, guitar and dulcimer.

He worked his way through Morehead State University playing music with Charlie Sizemore, emerged onto the national scene as a member of The Bluegrass Cardinals, played with JD Crowe and The New South, and was a member of the award-winning Lonesome River Band.

The two-time Grammy nominee and two-time SPBGMA Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year shared two IBMA Awards while performing with Longview and sang on a Grammy-winning album by rocker John Fogerty.

Rigsby served eight years as the first full-time director of the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music at MSU.

He has released five solo albums. His first, “A Vision,” won the Association of Independent Music’s “Gospel Album of the Year” award and was nominated for an IBMA Award. He received the 1999 Bluegrass Now Magazine Fans’ Choice Award for Vocal Tenor of the Year and the 2001 Governor’s Kentucky Star Award.

“Empty Old Mailbox,” the title track from his third album won the 2001 Song of the Year Award from SPBGMA. This project was followed up with “The Midnight Call”, “Hillbilly Heartache”, and “The Voice of God”.

In 2005, Rigsby was awarded two IBMA awards for his role as producer of the Larry Sparks project “40” for Recorded Event of the Year and Album of the Year.

In 2006, Rigsby and company received another award for Recorded Event of the Year for participating in the “Celebration of Life” project for St. Jude’ Children’s Hospital.

He continues to provide instruction both privately and in various camps across the U.S. and even abroad. He recently released his first mandolin instructional video as well.



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