Heavenward Bound

Larry Stephenson

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Heavenward Bound Review

by Rick Anderson

Mandolinist and high-tenor singer Larry Stephenson has made a career of keeping one foot in the secular bluegrass scene and another in the gospel circuit. His voice is a wonder -- pure and clean, with a slight tang to it that makes it sound a little like something you'd have heard on the radio 50 years ago. On this album he puts that voice to work on a program of gospel tunes, buttressed by a workmanlike trio that mostly hangs back and leaves room for Stephenson's remarkable voice. The tunes are a grab bag of gospel favorites and obscurities -- the gorgeous Albert Brumley composition "I've Never Been Sorry," a Jim & Jesse chestnut called "Look for Me," and the Carter Family classic "Keep on the Firing Line," which ends the album with a bang. Things bog down a bit halfway through with a soggy old Larry Gatlin tune, and the inclusion of "Away in a Manger" was kind of a quirky choice, but this album works very well overall. [Trivia item: The title track was written by the late John Duffey and was the first song recorded by the Country Gentlemen, back in 1957.]

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