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Beth and April Stevens

Sisters – 1996 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Beth and April Stevens

This debut album by two young Tennesseans is scoring big with Americana-format radio stations, and it's not hard to see why. Producer Ray Deaton and the Stevens sisters have taken the straight ahead, close harmony singing of family-band bluegrass (seven albums with their parents as The Stevens Family), surrounded it with picking by the some of Nashville's best new acoustic country/bluegrass musicians and applied the result to a collection of songs that show it offwell.

Half are originals, including the banjo-driven bluegrass of "Who's Crying For You Now" and "Blue," as well as the down-to-earth sadness of "Jeanie and Tommy." The rest range from the gospel quartet "In My Time Of Dying" to the O'Kanes' "When We're Gone Long Gone" to Dolly Parton's "Tomorrow Is Forever," though the real gem for most listeners will be a spell-binding version of Steve Earle's "My Old Friend The Blues.

With years of road work already behind them, Beth and April Stevens have a maturity and depth that belie their ages; with a sympathetic producer and supportive pickers, they have produced a stunning first album of their own.