Charlottesville, VA -- Don Rigsby’s life-long passion for the music of Dr. Ralph Stanley comes to full boil in his forthcoming album from Rebel Records, Doctor’s Orders: A Tribute to Ralph Stanley. (Stanley has been referred to as Dr. Ralph Stanley since receiving his honorary doctorate in music from Lincoln Memorial University in 1976.) For his third Rebel release, Rigsby chose to pay homage to Stanley with Doctor’s Orders, so named because Stanley helped choose the track listing from Rigsby’s master list of five dozen Ralph Stanley and Stanley Brothers recordings. “I wanted people to see my roots for what they are,” says Rigsby about his decision to make a tribute album. “I want the world to know that Ralph’s music is what makes me tick.”
Except for “The Mountain Doctor” (which Rigsby co-wrote with Larry Cordle, of “Murder on Music Row” fame), all the songs on the new album are ones Stanley recorded throughout his 67-year (and counting) career. Some are rare gems the Old Master seldom or never performed in his stage shows.
“I’m so proud of the tribute record that Don Rigsby has done for me. He has recorded some of my favorite material and brought new life to each song.”
Barely out of the cradle when he became enthralled by the high mournful sounds issuing from his brother’s 8-track tape player, Rigsby was a mature six years old the day he met Stanley at a show in Ashland, Kentucky. It remains the musical highlight of his life. 39 years after that first, life-changing Ralph Stanley concert, Don Rigsby is no longer a star-struck kid who fumbled over his words in the presence of his idol, but a man who knows just how lucky he is to have one of bluegrass music’s most legendary figures in his corner.
Adding zest to the project are appearances by Stanley and former Clinch Mountain Boys Larry Sparks, Ricky Skaggs, Charlie Sizemore and Steve Sparkman. Stanley’s lead guitarist, James Alan Shelton, plays on many of the 14 selections, as do such other prize-winning pickers as Ron Stewart and Barry Bales. Since Rigsby has been singing these songs for nearly four decades, it’s natural that the recording session was as smooth as Kentucky bourbon: most of his vocals on Doctor’s Orders were scratch vocals, nearly all of the arrangements were recorded live, and the initial tracks were laid down in just two days.
“I’m beyond honored and blessed that my mentor and biggest musical influence is also one of my closest friends. At this point in my career, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than honor him.”
Don Rigsby is a two-time Grammy nominee and two-time winner of the SPBGMA’s Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year award. He has performed and/or recorded with The Bluegrass Cardinals, J. D. Crowe & The New South, Lonesome River Band, Longview and Midnight Call. His credits also include five solo albums and two IBMA awards for producing Larry Sparks’ comeback album, 40. A graduate of Morehead State University, Rigsby was the first full-time director of that school’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music.
The first single from the album, "The Mountain Doctor," will be made available for digital purchase as a special pre-album promotion next Tuesday, April 2 via iTunes, Amazon and other online retailers. The physical and online versions of the full album will be released May 21.