Music, Pop Culture, Style/ Beauty

“Sandy Ridge Wind” by Nathan Stanley

To say music compromises a crucial part of Nathan Stanley’s DNA is an understatement. The grandson of bluegrass giant Dr. Ralph Stanley, one part of the famed Stanley Brothers and renowned for his performances with The Clinch Mountain Boys, comes by his voice honestly. He’s refined his work over the course of ten albums and his latest single “Sandy Ridge Wind” continues perpetuating the same fine tradition of music. Evidence of ongoing growth abounds. Stanley is essentially singing about renewal and staying true to the core elements that make you who you are. It doesn’t wallow in the past but reaffirms traditional values.


Many classic instrumental touches help distinguish the single. Stanley eschews his grandpa’s bluegrass sound for classic country and the distinctive pedal steel presence underlines his choice of direction. He adopts a relaxed mid-tempo pace for the song’s arrangement and the production emphasizes an airy sweep that brings listeners along in the right way. His voice bears superficial resemblance to legends such as George Jones, without the towering vocal heights, and even a little Merle Haggard. This sense of familiarity serves him well.

It’s familiar without ever sounding wearying. Even country music cynics will concede that Stanley’s measured and nuanced take on longtime themes doesn’t risk boring listeners. It is predictable, yes, but in the best possible way. He makes a personal lyrical statement with this song and, even if you know where he’s going, listening to how skillfully he arrives is the best part of the journey.

He’s drawing from classic locations in country music history for the song title and lyrics. It limits the song’s potential audience to a degree and there’s a likely assumption on Stanley’s part that he’s playing for niche listeners. The assumption, however, isn’t reflected in his music. “Sandy Ridge Wind” speaks to us all, you don’t need to be well-versed in the genre’s history to comprehend its message, and the passion in Stanley’s voice is unmistakable.

It’s artful, as well. Stanley never bellows or tries to overwhelm the listener. He gets under your skin through phrasing, evocative touches of emotion at the end of crucial lines, the way he wraps his voice around certain words. It’s apparent that much of this is innate talent. It’s equally apparent, however, that Stanley can work at this level because of his careful study of the genre and its best singers. He’s learned his lessons well.


“Sandy Ridge Wind” isn’t the sound of an artist treading water. It’s the sound of a supreme stylist who’s consolidated his talents and brings a tighter focus than ever before to his work. Nathan didn’t write the song himself; it’s penned specifically for him by Kerry Belcher, and it’s a tailor-made piece for the talented singer. The Dove winning artist’s new single is one of four new studio cuts included on his forthcoming Nathan Stanley Live!, due in the spring of 2023. New material this polished shows he’s far from slowing down. It’s a new peak for Stanley and there is more to come.

Troy Johnstone

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