Pikeville, Kentucky native Kristi Stanley has definitely found her groove and grown comfortable with her versatility on this finely executed song collection. Produced by Steve Wilson, Kristi has a fair share of straight-up bluegrass picking, but there are also stylistic forays into gospel, classic country, and hints of rock n’ roll here and there.
Stanley, wife of Ralph Stanley II, recorded with her late father-in-law on an album called Clinch Mountain Sweethearts some years back. Before that, she was part of a popular regional band called Sandy River. More recently, in 2018, she released her well-received debut album, Heart Open Wide. After that, her music took a back seat to raising a family. Then, of course, came COVID.
“Diggin’,” the opening track on Kristi, is a smoky, sultry meditation on the gritty, down-in-the-trenches kind of hard work often required to keep relationships functioning. “40 Miles Of Bad Road” is a bitter commentary on how romance’s smooth highway can gradually dwindle down to nothing but ruts and cinders. Heartbreak Hill is a similarly ominous lovelorn ballad.
On the other extreme, Stanley delivers powerful and arresting tenderness on ballads like “Just A Little Girl” (about a child trying to keep her head above water amidst neglect and abuse) and the anguished “Did You Tell Her All About Me.” She also serves up an awesome version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” and she really lets it rip on a full-tilt gospel celebration called “Nothing Can Hold Me Here.”