When: Sat., Dec. 5, 8 p.m. 2015
Dr. Ralph Stanley’s doctorate in music from Tennessee’s Lincoln Memorial University is honorary—but there’s no question he’s earned it. Has anyone on earth witnessed more Appalachian mountain music than this 88-year-old singer and banjo player? As a child he was taught by his musical mother, and he hasn’t wandered very far from his roots in southwestern Virginia. Nor has he ever really stopped playing and touring, though he considered it briefly after the 1966 death of his beloved brother Carter, leader of the Stanley Brothers and the first Clinch Mountain Boys incarnation. His hair-raising, bone-chilling a cappella rendition of the mountain standard “O Death” that appears in O Brother Where Art Thou? introduced him to a huge new audience, and seeing him and his band nowadays raises the question of where in the set he’s going to put that literal showstopper. (When I saw him at Symphony Center a few years ago it went right in the middle, like he doesn’t give a damn; life goes on.) Stanley now plays with a crack band of relative youngsters, underlining the fact that his music is a living tradition, not a museum piece—it’s still an intergenerational pastime in its native region.
Price: $40, $38 members