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Larry Stephenson

Weep Little Willow – 2016 (Whisper Dream)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Larry Stephenson

With much of bluegrass music setting off in more adventurous or mainstream directions, it's always reassuring to know that there are artists such as Larry Stephenson out there who can bring great talent to the more traditional side of things and make it sound brand new. Stephenson breaks no new ground, but provides solid evidence of his firm position in the legacy of bluegrass.

One of the most lauded singers in his genre and a five time SPBGMA Vocalist of the Year, Stephenson's nasal twang is comforting and classic on songs such as the unforced, sentimental Randall Hylton composition "It Almost Feels Like Love" or the more driving "Sweet Little Darling (Don't You Cry)." Tradition is fully served on a swinging version of Bill Monroe's "Kentucky Waltz," while the band has some fun with Mac Wiseman's "Free Me From This Old Chain Gang." Stephenson also digs into Bill Anderson's "Nail My Shoes to the Floor," a great non-breakup song with the narrator begging his spouse to help him stay home.

Stephenson has a serious instrumental ringer in the band with banjo picker Kenny Ingram, who's all over these tracks with solos and fills. Fiddler Josh Greene gets a nice showcase on the driving closer "Midnight Train" as well, but for the majority of the album, the focus is rightly on the singing of Stephenson and his mastery of traditional bluegrass.