Clinch Mountain Echo

Steve Sparkman - Smith Ridge

A Tribute To The Stanley Style Of Mountain Banjo

(Copper Creek CCCD-0142) 1996

Smith Ridge
CD Tray Inner Booklet Inner Booklet

Average Album Rating: 4
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Steve Sparkman is undoubtedly the finest 'Stanley style' banjo picker ever... well apart from Ralph, obviously...

His debut 'solo' album features backing from the CMB's, and Ralph also plays on a couple of cuts, though it's hard to tell the difference between the two. The album is all instrumental with four originals, a selection of Ralph's tunes and three standards; all performed with aplomb and with a similiar feel to the King era Stanleys / Ralph's early 70s period.

Sessions for the album took place on the 5th October 1995 at Maggard Studios in Big Stone Gap, Va., about fifteen months after Steve had been recruited to the band, as a consequence of Ralph breaking a 'femur' leg bone.

Of the originals, Booger Mule is a catchy number which was also featured on some of the bands live appearances.[1] According to the CD liner notes, the tune was named after Ralph's nickname for Kenneth Davis, although later on Steve's 'Stanley Style Banjo' DVD in 2008 Steve said:- "'Booger Mule' came from my great grandfather down in the hills of Eastern Kentucky in Harlan County... a lot of coal miners they would talk the crap... and it was a common saying... 'you old booger mule if you don't slow down you're gonna work yourself to death'... and that's where I got it from, because the tune is very aggressive and very fast and it kind of reminds you of that saying."

James Alan Shelton, who assisted Steve on the DVD added:- "...on a live recording of the Stanley Brothers, I heard Carter Stanley call somebody a booger mule, he said 'Get it booger mule', when they were about to do their solo."

Roundeye is another 3-finger original, named after a festival in Ohio where Ralph played regularly and the remaining two originals, Smith Ridge and Slick Willie are perfomed clawhammer style. According to the extensive liner notes Slick Willie was a name Melvin Goins or Ralph hung on James Alan Shelton.

John Rigsby, James Price and James Alan Shelton all contribute greatly to the album, with mandolin, fiddle and guitar breaks on most tracks... and Steve, on most numbers, plays three banjo breaks...

The cover is also a tongue-in-cheek homage to Ralph's artwork for his Hills Of Home album.

(*) Ralph plays second banjo on Clinch Mountain Backstep and Cripple Creek.

Booger Mule

Steve Sparkman
Clinch Mountain Backstep

Ruby Rakes
Smith Ridge

Steve Sparkman
Careless Love

Hard Times

R. Stanley
Slick Willie

Steve Sparkman
Lisa's Joy

R. Stanley
Big Tilda

R. Stanley

Steve Sparkman
Chicken Reel

Mastertone March

Ruby Rakes
Cripple Creek


Go To Top Of Page [1] For exampler - there's a live version of Booger Mule on a tape from 3rd Nov 1995, Withlacoochie Bluegrass Jamboree, Dunnellon, FL.