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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Ralph Stanley II says he's learned from the best

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ralph Stanley plays at the Maumee Indoor Theatre on Saturday. Ralph Stanley plays at the Maumee Indoor Theatre on Saturday.
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Ralph Stanley II lives in his hometown, a little hamlet in Virginia called Coeburn. It's where he grew up, and he has no plans to leave.

He plays the kind of straight-forward mix of country and bluegrass you'd expect from the son of one of the genre's greatest icons. In fact, he proudly accepts the nickname "Two" because everyone knows his legendary father, Ralph Stanley, is "One."

Stanley the junior wears the mantle well and doesn't ever consider rebelling against his roots, which are deep in this country's musical firmament. And why should he?

"I know my dad's great and a legend and I know that if I can be half the man he is, I'll be successful," Stanley said in a phone interview from his home.

He'll bring a four-piece band to the Maumee Indoor Theatre's Glass City Opry Saturday night for a show that will feature his brand of traditional country flavored with bluegrass. They'll play songs from his most recent album, "This One Is Two" and the five other albums the 31-year-old Stanley has recorded.

Growing up in such a musical family - his father and uncle Carter Stanley formed the seminal bluegrass/country/gospel groups the Stanley Brothers and Clinch Mountain Boys - one of "Two's" earliest memories was of wanting to play music.

As a youngster he'd sit in his basement for hours and study the music of Carter Stanley and Keith Whitley, the late country great who sang in the elder Stanley's band.

"I always wanted to sing lead for dad, and I'd sit down there and study and try to learn what they did and learn rhythm guitar. When I was 11 or 12 I did that pretty consistently," he said.

Something important struck him about the music:

"The sincerity and the soul in their voices and the way they brought a song across. It made you feel like you were living it and that's what I like to do in my songs."

Stanley is too polite to say anything negative about modern country that you hear on the radio, but its emphasis on pristine production values and a pop-oriented approach isn't something he's interested in.

"The real country music will stand the test of time because of the authentic rawness in it. It might not make the most money at the time, but it will always come back around to you. What Nashville is doing now is what's more appealing to the radio I guess," he said.

He said he'll hang around Saturday night to sign autographs and meet people, which isn't surprising given his down-home vibe and modesty. After all, he learned from the best.

"I'm just going to stay true to my roots, what I studied in my basement," he said.

Tickets for Saturday's show are $15 and can be purchased at the box office at the Maumee Indoor Theatre, 601 Conant St., or online at glasscityopry.com. Show time is 7 p.m.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com

or 419-724-6159.



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