Every Mile

Nathan Stanley

Willow Creek Records, 2014

http://www.nathanstanleymusic.com

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/10/2014

I remember first seeing Nathan Stanley performing with his grandfather Ralph Stanley as part of the backing group The Clinch Mountain Boys. At the time he was 14, sporting gaudy rings on each hand, but playing a mean mandolin. Now, all grown up, he is poised to carry on the Stanley Tradition and take Dr. Ralph’s place at center stage when the aged bluegrass patriarch retires from touring at the end of 2014 at the age of 87.

Or is he? As he steps into the spotlight in a way that Ralph’s son, Ralph II has not yet done, he chose to issue Every Mile, which is not the traditional bluegrass album one would expect. Instead, it is a country gospel album (oddly at this writing, the album has been nominated for a Dove Award for Bluegrass Gospel Album Of The Year. I would invite readers to listen to some actual bluegrass gospel albums I have reviewed on this site to compare and see if you agree with this designation). The disc features several of the big names in Southern gospel music today including Jeff & Sherri Easter, Adam Crabb, Wes Hampton, Becky Isaacs Bowman, and Vince Gill. When I received my copy of this album, I was expecting something more in the vein of the Stanley gospel tradition, as seen in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Clinch Mountain Gospel or any number of Stanley gospel albums. But you have to hand it to him for stepping out to a wider audience. And Nathan’s voice is reminiscent of the long deceased Carter Stanley, who bluegrass fans still remember fondly.

Some of the songs on Every Mile are familiar traditional hymns or bluegrass gospel standards.  On these Nathan comes through in vivid form. “Baptism Of Jesse Taylor,” a very countrified “Heart That Will Never Break Again,” the classic Stanley tune “Going Up Home To Live In Green Pastures,” “Where No One Stands Alone,” “Hand In Hand With Jesus,” and “Lord You're The Best Thing” are all solid tracks.  Other tracks, like the title tune, “I Know Jesus Will See Me Through,” and “Piece Of Clay,” are pleasant enough, but they in no way break the mold to become memorable. 

The final track is “You Can't Make Old Friends,” which is a well-written song with a powerful message. But it is done as a duet with Ralph Stanley, which would be good, except the lyrics of the song seem to pine for someone who is deceased. The fact that Dr. Ralph is chiming in with phrases to the effect that he will always be with Nathan on stage and through life bespeak Ralph’s death more than retirement. The fact that Ralph is still with us and is a part of this track in that way strikes this reviewer as macabre. Ralph’s outstanding tenor could have been better suited to a more traditional duet like Nathan did with the other artists rather than relegated to an apparition rising from a grave that he is not yet in.

Every Mile is Nathan Stanley’s seventh album, and he does show a lot of promise and has an excellent singing voice. He clearly has a penchant for gospel music, which should give him a ready-made audience as he embarks on a solo career when Ralph leaves the stage. This third generation of bluegrass royalty will surely have an interesting career to listen to.

Rating: B-

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