The Pittsburgh Three Rivers Arts Festival could book Nickelback from 2017 until the end of time, and I would forgive them, because in 2013 they booked Ralph Stanley, and I got to see him sing, and to shake his hand and fawn over him.

He was frail already, but it was still one of the finest concerts I have ever seen. That voice will not come again.

“Ralph Stanley is not immortal. In spite of refrains — at least half a dozen at the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Arts Festival alone — of his status as a “living legend,” Stanley is 86 years old and frail. One half of the first-generation-of-bluegrass duo The Stanley Brothers, as well as a solo artist in his own right, Stanley might have just a few years left in him. He already can’t play his famous clawhammer-style banjo. On Saturday, his band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, gave Stanley a lyrics sheet so he could remember the words to “Angel Band”, a song which someone in the crowd requested. A song he must have sung hundreds of times.”

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