If Bill Monroe is the father of bluegrass, then Ralph Stanley’s the godfather. His distinctive clawhammer style of banjo and ability to hit the high notes and hold ’em made him and brother Carter’s band, The Clinch Mountain Boys, one of the best-loved bands in bluegrass. His popularity faded, then came back with a vengeance with his version of “O Death” from the 2001 O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack and tour.
Rhonda Vincent grew up in the family music business, The Sally Mountain Show, playing drums at the age of six, and had a single, “Mule Skinner Blues,” at 9. She stayed with the family until her mid-twenties when she landed a job with Grand Ole Opry star Jim Ed Brown. She toured with Brown for five years, but recorded bluegrass on her own. After a brief stint in country, she’s remained in bluegrass. Vincent says that, to her, feeling the music is as important as getting it technically correct: “You just know it, and you like what you’re doing.”
Ralph Stanley and Rhonda Vincent play the North Carolina State Fair Wednesday, Oct. 20. Show starts at 7:30 p.m.