For me they are bigger than the individual camps of vernacular North American music such as bluegrass and country, more of a bridge to a more old time form of communication and song traveling, what they used to call 'folk' in the 1940's, before it became 'country'. Carter and Ralph Stanley always stuck with a clean, simple, not so testosterone-driven style as what became bluegrass, partly because they were less an intrumental band than a storytelling one. As I delve deeper and deeper into the past recorded history of 'country' music forms, their work seems more and more to be a perfect concoction of what A. P. Carter began to do when he streamlined and smoothed-out the bumpy and briar-y stuff of deep woods and mountain musics.
Not that I necessarily think that that is the 'correct' way forward for the bumpy and briar-y bits- I love the more old time songs that have unusual timings and idiosyncratic flow which might make them seem more distant or hard to play or get a modern head around. But something about the purity of Carter Stanley's songcrafting has attached itself rather deeply to me.
Since it was through some links on WFMU that I really began to dredge a huge, monolithic amount of old-time folk idioms from off of the internet, I wanted to put up a link today that brings this full circle again. I've always been a collector and scholar of vernacular American musics, and as we know, sometimes when you find a site online that presents a load of albums and 78's that cater directly to your whims, they can disappear overnight, leaving you wishing you'd heard that elusive rare vinyl that you hadn't downloaded and absorbed yet. Because so much of it is rarther obscure and seemingly 'not in copyright' this area of websites is really popping right now, with a lot of unusual and rare old albums and 78's (yay!) being put up at a rate faster than I can even hope to hear. This is all great- it helps my personal songwriting and performing tremendously to hear wild and different versions of 'familiar' songbook pieces (Wildwood Flower alone is available in a bizarre number of renditions, of course, many of them completely removed from the Carter Family's source inspiration), and amazing 'new' old pieces that move me a great deal keep turning up. As one who doesn't read music, being able to hear the records, along with my old songbook and hymnal studies helps me understand these a lot better.
So, today I want to pass along a newish site that is being moderated by some madman that puts up incredible amounts of stuff daily, some sort of cornpone country robot with an itchy clicking finger and way too many records! Seriously, if you dig this stuff, check it out here. Here are two mp3s recently culled from some rather rare old Stanley Brothers lps I found there; a rather perky rendition of a house favorite, Angel Band, and their 1960's version of Keep on the Sunny Side. Enjoy.