Since 1998, Larry Stephenson has recorded a long string of albums for Pinecastle, a label featuring solid roots music. As one might guess from the title, Thankful, Stephenson and his crack band have chosen to focus on gospel music. To be more specific, Thankful is bluegrass gospel, similar to the work of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Stephenson's a traditionalist, and the music here harks back to a time when bluegrass pickers (and gospel singers) worried less about radio programming or the fact that they might sound too country or Southern. Instead, Stephenson, Dustin Benson, Aaron McDaris, Sonya Isaacs, Ben Surratt, Missy Raines, and Shad Cobb dig deep into country roots on songs like "Lord It's a Hard Road Home" and "How High Is That Mountain." The band has a number of good singers, allowing for a great deal of versatility with arrangements, and the instrumental work is crisp and spunky (it would have been nice to have a track-by-track breakdown of the vocalists). Lyrically, the songs center on fundamental Christianity, emphasizing the importance of living a good life despite trails and tribulations, and the importance of preparing for an even better life in the next world. For gospel lovers, Stephenson fans, and anyone who appreciates well-performed roots music, Thankful is an inspiring disc.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.