Ralph Stanley’s death from skin cancer earlier this year shook the music world and left some pretty large shoes to fill. Stanley’s otherworldly voice, songwriting and dedication to “Old-time” music inspired countless bluegrass artists over the years. There’s perhaps no better example of Stanley’s influence than Alison Krauss. Like Stanley, Krauss brought bluegrass music to new generations over the course of her lengthy career. Krauss continues to honor the genre through both traditional and contemporary songs.
At the 2016 Americana Music Awards, Krauss teamed up with Buddy Miller, Melonie Cannon and Stuart Duncan to perform a spellbinding a cappella version of “Gloryland.” The four singers delivered such a captivating performance of the gospel song, you could’ve heard a pin drop in the Ryman Auditorium that night.
Watch the performance below.
Stanley rose to fame in the late 1940s, performing with his brother Carter Stanley as the Stanley Brothers. After Carter’s death in 1966, Ralph Stanley carried on with a solo career. In the 1970s, Stanley enlisted two then-unknown musicians, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, to be part of his Clinch Mountain Boys.
Both Alison Krauss and Stanley were a part of the hugely popular O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, which featured Stanley’s “O, Death.”
Released in 2000, the movie and soundtrack inspired a nationwide bluegrass resurgence. Stanley won a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 2002 for “O, Death.”
Patty Loveless, who collaborated with Stanley for a rousing version of “Pretty Polly,” has credited Stanley with sparking her love of singing. The Kentucky native, who released the bluegrass album Mountain Soul in 2001, grew up listening to Stanley’s “high lonesome” tenor voice.
“He was the one who taught me how to sing,” Loveless said at Stanley’s memorial service. “His voice was his instrument and how beautiful it was.”