The Osborne Brothers - Ruby
The Osborne Brothers’ style of bluegrass is called “high lonesome”, and if you want to know what that means just listen to this track. Bobby Osborne’s high tenor is an eerie keen floating over a barely contained frenzy of banjo picking. Together the two evoke the agony of being trapped in an irrational conflict with the one you love — your pulse racing senselessly in every direction, while your mind slowly repeats the same confused plea over and over again.
I had a hard time deciding which version of this tune to feature — I ultimately chose the original 1956 recording with Red Allen for its haunting quality, but I also highly recommend this more recent recording for its better sound quality, incredible banjo pyrotechnics, and sheer toe-tapping intensity. The original sends a chill up the spine; this version makes the heart race. Take your pick.
Video of the Osborne Brothers performing “Ruby” at the Newport Folk Festival in the 1960s.