Sunday, July 26, 2015


In his outstanding HBTN essay for entry number 9 Bill Friskics-Warren writes, “Records as evocative as ‘Rank Stranger’ cry out for multiple interpretations. The song’s narrative is as straightforward as it is sketchy—and as harrowing. . . . [One] possibility is that the dystopia depicted in ‘Rank Stranger’ isn’t so much a physical place (although it’s certainly that) as a moral condition. . . . Adrift in some infernal limbo, Ralph’s aggrieved wailing floats, untethered, on the chorus, making it plain that, for now, the brothers are stuck in a living hell.”

The first time I heard “Rank Stranger” was at the height of my blues fever which had been built upon a foundation of a decade’s worth of listening to Top 40 rock’n’roll and pop music. Country music and bluegrass could not have been farther from my musical interests. Until the fateful day when a banjo playing friend played for me the Stanley’s “Rank Stranger.” To say I was floored, flabbergasted, my heart and soul taken with no resistance, might be a little on the dramatic side but no less accurate a description of my reaction. So let’s just say that nearly 50 years later “Rank Stranger” and the Stanley Brothers remain near the very top of my own “500 greatest records” of any stripe or color.

9.  Rank Stranger • The Stanley Brothers • 1960


  1. Not ignoring your terrific selections, Frank, as I hope you know. I checked my iTunes and was surprised that I don't have this one. Will be added to my list of favourite Stanley Brothers tracks.


    1. Why, thank you, ma'am. It's certainly one of mine. . . .