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The Stevens Sisters

Little By Little – 2002 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by The Stevens Sisters

Products of a family bluegrass band, Beth and April Stevens' 1996 debut, "Sisters," only hinted at the much broader scope of this long overdue follow-up. Thesiblings have taken their traditional bluegrass upbringing and grafted it onto modern percussion and contemporary songwriting in a way that doesn't seem out of place for them.

The sisterly harmony is still up front and center as it should be, and the stellar cast of support musicians includes Rob Ickes, Mike Henderson, Sam Bush, Bobby Hicks and Dolly Parton, who sings harmony on a lovely version of her own, "I'll Never Say Goodbye." The Parton connection is strong, as the Stevens Sisters are also from rural Tennessee, and their producer Richie Owens is not only Dolly's cousin, he worked on her excellent 1998 release "Hungry Again." The sisters' sound owes much to Parton's early work, but their more acoustic, bluegrass elements point equally towards similar work from Emmylou Harris.

With the driving, hit-potential songs like Kim Richey's "Those Words We Said" or the can't-believe-it-works cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone," this is hot new country that probably still won't land on commercial country playlists.