Once upon a time, women were more rare than drum kits on the bluegrass scene. Slowly, though, Laurie Lewis and Alison Krauss showed that they could sell records and win over the critics as well as the boys could. Little by Little represents April and Beth Stevens' adventurous follow-up to 1996's somewhat conservative Sisters. They both sing well, but since they are sisters working as a duo, their specialty is cutting loose in unison. Building on the shoulders of artists like Rhonda Vincent, the sisters put a contemporary spin on a dozen bluegrass tunes. It's difficult, after all, to imagine tradition-oriented singers like Dr. Ralph Stanley or Lester Flatt singing Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone." The country-flavored vocals on pieces like "Lonesome Wind" likewise owe more to Nashville acts like the Judds than to mountain music. Crisp acoustic arrangements on the jazzy "Love Every Time" and the high-stepping "Those Words We Said" provide the perfect backdrop for the sisters to launch their fine harmony. A number of well-known players show up for guest spots, including Rob Ickes, Sam Bush, and Dolly Parton, and all of the supporting musicians are excellent. Anyone who has enjoyed albums by Vincent or Dolly Parton will probably want to add the Stevens Sisters' Little by Little to their collection.
Little by Little Review
by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.