Clinch Mountain Echo

Ralph Stanley - Hills Of Home

(King KSD 1069) 1969


Hills Of Home
Rear Cover Side One Label Side One Label
CD Cover CD Tray King Logo Sleeve

Average Album Rating: 5

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This album was recorded on the 14th-15th July 1969 at the Starday studios in Nashville TN,[1] just over a week after their appearance at the Berryville, VA festival.[2]

The title track, Hills Of Home, was written by Wandell 'Wendy' Smith, using the tune of Let Me Rest which Carter and Ralph had recorded for King in 1960. Wendy had previously written a tribute to Carter on 2nd Dec 1966, which was released in 1967 as Wendy Smith and The Windy Mountain Boys - Carter Stanley Will Lead That Great Band/Saviour Guide Me (Fortune F355)[3]. In an interview in Blugrass Unlimited[4] Wendy said: "After that tribute to Carter, Ralph asked me to write "Hills Of Home". They were playing a show at Chapmanville, West Virginia. Melvin (Goins) went and borrowed a mandolin for me and I played a show with them that night."

"I said to Ralph (when asked to write the song) 'I Can't even imagine how close you and Carter were, travelling together and all, so I'll just write it as if it were my brother."

"That night, driving back home from the show - that's when I can write, when everybody's quiet and I'm tired - I wrote 'Hills Of Home'"

"Ralph came up (to Michigan) a couple of weeks later, and I had it finished. George Shuffler recorded it (on tape) in Fay McGinnins' kitchen. Ralph just listened to part of it and walked out, and it was a couple of years before he could record it."

Hills Of Home would become a fairly regular fixture in Ralph's live set in future years. Ralph re-recorded it in 1975 on Let Me Rest On A Peaceful Mountain and in 2015 on the Cracker Barrel Man Of Constant Sorrow. Live versions also crop up on Live At The Smithsonian/Live At The Smithsonian Vol. 2 and Clinch Mountain Boys Reunion DVD/2xCD.

Wendy Smith (miscredited on this LP as 'Windy') went on to provide several songs for Ralph.[5]

Darling Brown Eyes was written by Osburn Thorpe, who also made significant contributions to the Jalyn The Bluegrass Sound... LP. Ralph, who is co-credited as writer says that the song was written for Jimmie Stanley, his newly wed.[6]

I Only Exist, another much-loved Stanley perennial, was written by Jimmie Stanley and her friend Joyce Morris. Ralph said: "...the words came to her all at once when she was driving north on Interstate 75 from Cincinnati to Warwick."[6] Ralph and Jimmie had first met in 1961 at a Stanley Brother show, but it wasn't until July 1968 that they were both free to marry.[7]

Midnight Storm and The Kitten And The Cat were old Stanley Brothers songs, that Carter and Ralph hadn't had the opportunity to record.

Dug-Gunn Shame sounds like it's a less vitriolic re-working of The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers' You're No Good, which Curly had recorded in 1953.[8]

Let's Go To The Fair and My Long Skinny Lanky Sarah Jane are children/comedy numbers. I wonder if the inclusion of these were at the suggestion of Jimmy Martin, who helped out on guitar and mandolin on the sessions. The liner notes to Poor Rambler recall that Let's Go To The Fair had been performed by the Stanley Brothers in the early 'Farm And Fun Time' radio shows... which Jimmy Martin was a fan of. Also, Jimmy used to regularly feature a light-hearted comedy track or two on his albums to balance out the real sad songs.

Medicine Springs was written by Bill Grant (of Bill Grant & Delia Bell) who gave the song to Ralph at his festival in Hugo, Oklahoma. In a live tape from Gettysburg 1981, Ralph performs introduces it as: "This is one I recorded a long time ago, and I hope that I can remember the words to it, we'll try it for you, Medicine Springs, we went to this er Springs in the state of Oklahoma and it's a true song (CMB's cry out 'Big Snakes') that's right and this Medicine Springs has about 16 different minerals or something in it and they claim it can cure anything. We didn't try it, but it's a true song and we hope you enjoy it." Lyrically it's a boy meets girl, boy steals for girl, boy gets caught and goes to jail, girl dies and upon release boy waters girl's grave with water from the medicine springs.... Ace!

The album also features two instrumentals Coosy and California, which Larry Sparks recalls were written whilst the band were on their tour of the West Coast that preceded the Berryville festival.[9]

This is another 'top drawer' album, it features many fine songs/tunes and was the last to feature Larry Sparks, and the last to appear on King.

By the time this album was recorded, the King label had been sold to Starday. For a while they operated as King-Starday (hence the KSD catalogue prefix), but the writing was on the wall and the labels were soon sold two or three times before being bought by Gusto in 1974. Earlier copies of the LP have a "K" logo at the bottom right of the cover, rather than the black box/Starday logo.

The three albums Ralph cut for King are 'top drawer' and the 3xCD set Poor Rambler, is highly recommended.

Track:
Title:
Side One:
(12:11)
1
Hills Of Home

Wendy Smith / R. Stanley
2
Darling Brown Eyes

Osburn Thorpe / R. Stanley
3
My Long Skinny Lanky Sarah Jane

R. Stanley
4
Coosy

R. Stanley
5
Midnight Storm

C. Stanley / R. Stanley
6
Let's Go To The Fair

R. Stanley
Side Two:
(13:54)
1
Dark Hollow

Bill Browning
2
Dug-Gunn Shame

Curly Ray Cline / R. Stanley
3
The Kitten And The Cat

C. Stanley / R. Stanley
4
California

Curly Ray Cline / R. Stanley
5
I Only Exist

Joyce Morris / Jimmie Stanley
6
Medicine Springs

Bill Grant / R. Stanley

Go To Top Of Page [1] John Wright's "Travelling The High Way Home" book (p252).
[2] See Live At Watermelon Park page.
[3] http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2012/07/carter-stanley-will-lead-that-great-band-mp3.html
[4] 'Wendy Smith And Michigan Bluegrass' by Marty Godbey, Blugrass Unlimited (April 1984)
[5] In [4] Wendy says Ralph cut 'about nine' of his songs. I can only think of six: River Underground, Daughter Of Geronimo, Sweet Sally Brown, Lonesome, Hills Of Home and Shotgun Slade. For more info on Wendy, see the Sings Michigan Bluegrass page.
[6] Ralph Stanley/Eddie Dean book "Man Of Constant Sorrow" (p.266): "There's a song I wrote for her, 'My Darling Brown Eyes', that I'm right proud of, but I think her song 'I Only Exist' is better." Ralph and Jimmie had been married nearly a year when the 'Hills Of Home' LP was recorded.
[7] They met on December 13, 1961 at the Ken-Mill bar in Cincinnati, OH. (p260 of [6]). Ralph and his second wife Peggy were divorced in June 1968 and Jimmie was granted a divorce on 3rd Jan 1968. Ralph and Jimmie tied the knot on 2nd July 1968. (Various searches on http://www.ancestry.co.uk/)
[8] Liner notes to [8] and liner notes to The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers - Windy Mountain (Bear BCD-AH) CD 1992.
[9] Liner notes to the 3xCD set 'Poor Rambler' (King K3CD-0951) 2002.