Man of Constant Sorrow

A good film can do wonders to bring a musician a wider audience.

"I feel like I've been handed a new life," remarks the homicidal Tom Ripley, played by Matt Damon, at the dramatic height of Anthony Minghella's 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley. The late trumpeter Chet Baker might have said the same thing; when the movie, which made frequent references to the 1954 album Chet Baker Sings, was released, sales of Baker's catalog soared. Similarly, Alfredo Catalani's little-known opera La Wally became popular with the arrival of Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1981 New Wave thriller Diva, while Screamin' Jay Hawkins enjoyed a modest revival with Jim Jarmusch's 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise, with its repeated play of Hawkins's weird anthem "I Put a Spell on You."

A good film, in short, can do wonders to bring a musician a wider audience.

That's just the case with banjo legend Ralph Stanley, whose work has been finding new listeners in the wake of Joel and Ethan Coen's new movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Laden with bluegrass classics, the movie's soundtrack gives prominent attention to the traditional tune "Man of Constant Sorrow," which Stanley long ago committed to vinyl on one of the more than 150 albums he has recorded over his long career.

With the passing of Bill Monroe, the 73-year-old Stanley now ranks as the grand old man of bluegrass music. A mentor to country artists like Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley and Patty Loveless and a recent inductee into the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame, Stanley frequently appears at venues close to his Virginia home. He travels farther afield less frequently these days, and his show in Tucson on February 3 marks his only appearance in Arizona in several years.

Backed by the Clinch Mountain Boys, Stanley will bring a roster of old-time mountain tunes to the stage, many of them to be found on his recently released bluegrass and gospel albums Man of Constant Sorrow and While the Ages Roll On.

"If you're a dyed-in-the-wool bluegrass fan, you already know why you should go see Ralph Stanley," says local bluegrass musician and Titan Valley Warheads guitarist Earl Edmondson. "He's a living legend, surrounded by great high-energy pickers. If you're new to bluegrass, it's a great introduction. Either way, it's some of the best traditional music you'll ever hear."

Expect to be treated to standards like "Hard Times," "Man from Galilee" and "Goin' Up Home to Live in Green Pastures"--one of the world's great spiritual songs of any genre--and, of course, "Man of Constant Sorrow."

Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will appear at the Berger Performing Arts Center at the Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd., on Saturday, February 3, at 8 p.m. Reserved seats are $20 in advance, $23 at the door. Tickets may be purchased at Hear's Music (2508 N. Campbell Ave.), Antigone Books (411 N. Fourth Ave.), and Brew & Vine (6435 N. Oracle Ave.). For more information, call 297-9133.
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