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Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys 

When: Sat., Feb. 2, 8 p.m. 2013
On February 25 bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley—one of the last living links to the era when the genre came into its own, and the only figure of his stature still active—will turn 86. Yet seven decades after forming the Stanley Brothers with his brother Carter, who died in 1966, he carries on as if driven by some inexorable need. In 2011 he released a strong gospel album called A Mother’s Prayer (Rebel), and last year he played on the soundtrack of the Nick Cave film Lawless, transforming Captain Beefheart’s “Sure ’Nuff ’n Yes I Do” and the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” in his own steely-eyed, seen-it-all style. Stanley’s voice has weakened and grown ragged, and he no longer plays the banjo, but his presence and gravitas transcend technique—and when he uses them, his band’s hokey banter and carefully rehearsed shtick pale to insignificance. He has nothing left to prove, but he still has songs to sing. —Peter Margasak


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