CARTER STANLEY’S EYES
A Loving and Delightful Bluegrass History Lesson From a Master-Craftsman.
This is another of those albums that sit around RMHQ waiting to be reviewed but, while obviously worthy there’s always something that puts me off; in this case the words ‘Appalachian’ and ‘banjo’.
But, with something of a heavy heart I put it into the kitchen CD player yesterday as I prepared a meal; and……do you know what?
I rather liked it.
While Peter Rowan has been making music for the best part of my life; and possibly even longer I’ve not previously heard anything by him as I’m no lover of Appalachian or Old-Timey music; of which he is a purveyor of legendary proportions.
The key to me playing the whole album; and liking it, was opening track Drumbeats on the Watchtower which finds Rowan in fine fettle, alongside a myriad of other Master Musicians of the Folk variety on a stunning American Folk song that many will know from Ralph Stanley’s version, re-titled Wild Geese Cry Again. It not only had my toes tapping, but my heart racing too!
Then when the gloriously multi-harmonious A Tiny Broken Heart followed it, I knew I was going to have to give the whole album a serious listen; and I’m really glad I have.
While listening I’ve had to refer back to the accompanying notes as the songs here are generally a homage to Rowan’s early days as one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and then his relationship with Ralph and Carter Stanley; and the tunes he played at that time in the early 1960’s.
Obviously every song included is here on merit; but for me a few certainly stand out and just may be my entry into this genre of music.
The gentle lilt of Carter Stanley’s Too Late To Cry, especially the intricate mandolin solo is a delight all of its own and the fast and furious Ridin’ On That Midnight Train is the sort of song I’d expect half a dozen of my favourite Country acts to throw in as an encore number; but I guess they wouldn’t include the subtlety that Rowan does in his singing.
As you’d expect with Appalachian/Bluegrass music there are several nods to the church here too, with A Crown He Wore and more especially Will You Miss making my mind drift back to my own Wesleyan upbringing; and the latter, darkly beautiful Carter Family song now being added to songs I want played at my funeral.
The second of Rowan’s new songs here is the title track The Light in Carter Stanley’s Eyes and it’s fair to say this autobiographical story is the cornerstone to not just this wonderful record, but Rowan’s own life too and will be a distinct showstopper when he plays it on stage.
For the accolade of ‘Favourite Song’ I’m going for a tie; between the delightful and jaunty Let Me Love You One More Time and Rowan’s upbeat adaptation of Leadbelly’s Alabama Bound; which don’t sound nothing like the version I have by the great man himself.
Will I play this album again? I don’t know; but a few songs have already gone onto two playlists for Sunny Days and that’s something I wouldn’t have guessed would happen 48 hours ago; and of course I’ve added Will You Miss Me? to my funeral list; which Peter Rowan should take as a compliment.
Released April 20th 2018