Life Stories

Larry Stephenson

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Life Stories Review

by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

There are a number of things to recommend Larry Stephenson's approach to traditional bluegrass, but above them all stands his high and lonesome lead vocals on Life Stories. Whatever his background, his vocal style sounds authentic, leaving the impression that he grew up in the South where he rose early each morning to work on the family farm. The stories that grace the album likewise leave the impression of an older rural culture where folks sat around the stove in the evening telling tales. These stories, "Poor Old Cora" and "The Knoxville Boy," cover the gauntlet of human tragedies, from a girl left at the alter by her true love to the treachery of a cold-blooded murderer. All of these songs are backed with aplomb by spry banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and bass, creating an intoxicating mix that reminds one of the best qualities that made groups like Jim & Jesse so successful. While all musicians play well, the emphasis on Life Stories has been placed on the songs themselves, and few of them extend very far over the three-minute mark. Other winning cuts include "Veil of White Lace," "Deep Water," and the closer, "Waiting on the Sun to Shine." Life Stories will remind bluegrass fans that traditional music played in a traditional fashion has some life left in it yet.

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