Heartstrings Interview Review

Every Mile: Nathan Stanley’s “Bluegrass Album of the Year”

By Sharla McIver

Nathan Stanley EVERY MILE cover art

Individual God-given talents run deep within Nathan Stanley’s family. Stanley, the grandson of Bluegrass icon and Grammy Award-winning musician Dr. Ralph Stanley, won the “Bluegrass Album of the Year” at the 2014 Dove Awards this month for his most recent album, Every Mile. The Dove Awards took place on October 7, and Stanley, who was described by the Dove Awards as “such a genuine heart,” displayed his humble and gracious character in his reaction to his first nomination and win after the announcement was made.

“I am truly honored!” said Stanley.  “I was so honored to even be included among the nominations with the great artists I was nominated with in the category. I’ve known the Isaacs since I was a little boy, and was truly humbled and grateful for the nomination alone. This was my first Dove nomination.  I cannot express how thrilled I am to have won this award, not just for me, but for my Papaw.  He has paved the way for so many including me.  Having him on this album was special enough, but to now share a Dove Award with him takes it to another place.  I want to thank everyone who played a part in making this happen. Most of all, I give all of the praise and glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  Without him, this would not have been possible.”

Every Mile includes a combination of Southern Gospel, Bluegrass and Country styles and features collaborations with a number of well-known artists from each genre, including his grandfather on “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” Vince Gill on “Hand in Hand With Jesus,” Jeff and Sheri Easter on “Heart That Will Never Break Again” and T Graham Brown on “Baptism of Jesse Taylor.”

Stanley expressed his gratitude to the artists for taking their time to work with him on the album. “I know it’s a gift for them to lend their time. I have my hands full as Band Leader for Papaw’s band, trying to direct the show and keep it rolling, taking care of as much of his stuff as I can and working on my own music as well, but it’s worth it. So I really appreciate the gift of their time in making this album.”

Of Brown, Stanley said, “He is just a wonderful guy. As nice as it gets. He is also an amazing vocalist, and stylist. I was really honored to have him work with me on the track.”  Another favorite for Stanley on the album is the song “Lord, You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”  Stanley said, “The words are so powerful. A lot of people will be able to relate to those words. Everyone has ups and downs in this life. Wes Hampton did this song with me, and he is a dear friend and one of the best singers around.” One song almost didn’t make the final cut, and has turned out to be one of the most meaningful and poignant songs for Stanley. “”You Can’t Make Old Friends” was very emotional to sing and to record, especially with my Papaw. It was also recorded recently by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, but bringing the Grandfather/Grandson point of view to the song makes it different, a different meaning,” he explained.

Stanley is proud of and grateful for his heritage and honored to have spent many of his 22 years touring with his grandfather, Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Cinch Mountain Boys, starting by playing the spoons to serving for the past seven years as band leader, rhythm guitarist and singing lead vocals for the group. He is quick to add, however, his desire to not ride the coattails of his legendary grandfather but to make his own place in music based on the gifts God has given him. His grandfather is proud of him as well. Dr. Ralph Stanley said of his grandson’s album Every Mile: “I’m very proud of my grandson Nathan. I think he is doing a wonderful job of building his own legacy in the music industry. If you like good gospel music, I highly recommend this new album. It’s a good one!”

 “I started touring with my Papaw when I was two years old, one of the first times being on the Grand Ole Opry. I’ve stood beside him, watched what he did, and try to be the same but in my own way. I don’t want to be Ralph Stanley. I want to be Nathan Stanley,” he explained. “At a concert not too long ago, some folks came up to me and said they saw me on stage with my Papaw when I was 6 or 7 years old. They said I had become so tired that I ended up laying my head down on his boots and fell asleep, and Papaw just stood there so as not to disturb me and kept playing and singing. It’s really fun to run into people who have watched me grow up on the stage and share their memories with me.”

Despite his desire to be unique and himself, he knows he stands in a tall shadow. “You have to prove yourself when you have a name with such a legacy. There are some positives and there are some negatives, just like everything in life. I’m not competing but there will always be people who are comparing. But I’m so grateful for my heritage and I don’t take it lightly,” he explained.

Stanley has recorded and released seven solo albums including My Kind of Country, which in 2011 was voted “Classic Country Album of the Year” by the National Traditional Country Music Association. This project featured collaborations with Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Gene Watson, Rhonda Vincent, Marty Stuart, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jim Lauderdale and others. Two music videos were released from the album, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Long Black Veil”.

These artists have high praise for (Nathan) Stanley as well. T Graham Brown said, “Nathan’s version of ‘Hand in Hand with Jesus’ makes me want to tighten my grip. This is a standout cut and I know that he is making Dr. Ralph proud. I’m a Big Fan!” Gene Watson added, “Very seldom do you get to work with someone destined to become a Legend. So it was a great privilege for me to record with Nathan Stanley who is definitely on his way to becoming just that, A True Legend. Nathan has got the gift of music in his bones. At his young age, he’s already a super talented musician with a great sense of style and superb vocal talent.”

In addition to his responsibilities with Ralph Stanley and the Cinch Mountain Boys and his career as a solo artist, (Nathan) Stanley currently hosts his own television show The Nathan Stanley Ministry Show, which airs on Saturday nights on the Living Faith network. He has appeared on a number of television shows including Bill Gaither’s Bluegrass Homecoming and The Late Show with David Letterman.

1. Every Mile (feat Wes Hampton)
2. Baptism Of Jesse Taylor (feat T Graham Brown and Judy Marshall)
3. Heart That Will Never Break Again (feat Jeff and Sheri Easter)
4. I Know Jesus Will See Me Through (feat Sonya Isaacs Yeary and Becky Isaacs Bowman)
5. Let Me In Your Heart
6. Green Pastures (feat Jeff Bates and Judy Marshall)
7. Piece Of Clay
8. Where No One Stands Alone
9. Hand In Hand With Jesus (feat Vince Gill)
10. Where Will You Go
11. Would You Be Ready (feat Adam Crabb)
12. Lord You’re The Best Thing (feat Wes Hampton)
13. You Can’t Make Old Friends (feat Dr. Ralph Stanley)

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