Nathan Stanley’s new single “Sandy Ridge Wind” can be heard in several ways. It is an obvious tribute to the impact the Stanley family has left on popular music, especially Nathan’s grandfather, Dr. Ralph Stanley. There’s more going on with this track, however. Divorced from its personal references, “Sandy Ridge Wind” still serves as a thoughtful musical tether to maintaining your core self, whatever headwinds push back against you. It’s about always remembering who you are and where you came from. Songs capable of doing both of these things are special compositions and there isn’t a moment during the performance when Stanley doesn’t seem acutely aware of the song’s specialness.
You hear that in every syllable of his singing. Stanley is old school to the core and avoids any unnecessary histrionics that might attract younger vocalists. The song is far from a butterfly pinned under glass however. The audible emotion that Stanley pours into every verse will move even those unfamiliar with his family’s rich musical history.
It’s a song that understands more than music history. Kerry Belcher’s intensely human lyrics are as much about the writer as it is Nathan Stanley and his family. You can’t write something like this unless you’ve lived it or observed it in others. It’s the song of an older man or woman, the young would have no party with its sentiments, but it’s ultimately affirmative rather than dreary. It’s about holding true to the core principles underlying your life and vocation rather than losing yourself. It’s about the things that matter rather than those that pass away.
Using footage and pictures referencing the Stanley family has its good points and bad. It’s a boon for those respecting country and bluegrass music history and strengthens the song for that segment of the audience. It does, however, further tie the song to a specific subject rather than allowing listeners to make of it what they will. The landscape footage, however, is particularly breathtaking.
Stanley’s vocals are worth the price of purchase alone. His rich and lustrous voice recalls many classic country giants and there’s no question about his ability to carry a tune. He knows how to measure his singing, however, and avoids any moments of heavy-handed drama. Moreover, Nathan sings with the instruments, rather than over them, a sure sign of his long service as a singer. He’s a wily veteran and music runs through his blood.
It is one of four new studio songs that Stanley recorded for his forthcoming release Nathan Stanley Live! The vocalist shows that his penchant for selecting strong new material remains as strong as ever with “Sandy Ridge Wind” as it’s a composition that plays to his multitude of strengths. It’s not difficult to surmise that the remaining three tracks are every bit as strong. This is a musical artist who respects the past, without question, but he’s also looking to the future with each new chance he has to release music and we’re better off for it.