Larry Stephenson

Life Stories – 2006 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Larry Stephenson

Veteran bluegrass tenor and mandolin picker Larry Stephenson continues his long-standing relationship with Pinecastle with this collection of 11 songs (plus 1 instrumental) that, as the title implies, delve into the verities of life and, in some cases, death. "The Knoxville Boy" (written by Tom T. and Dixie Hall) is an intriguing sort of "prequel" to the prototypical country murder ballad "Knoxville Girl," and Stephenson also does a nice turn on the venerable twisted wedding/murder saga "Veil of White Lace."

And in fact, while Stephenson and his band are as solid and competent here as would be expected from a guy with his credentials, the strength of the disc lies in the songwriting, from old-timers like Lester Flatt ("Why Don't You Tell Me So") and Felice and Boudleaux Bryant ("Poor Old Cora") to contemporary talents like Blue Highway's Tim Stafford (co-writer of "Baby Shoes"). And come to think of it, the Halls fit nicely into both of those categories. Also worthy of special mention is the trio harmony work on a version of Fred Rose's "Deep Water." This kind of material, in the hands of a pro like Stephenson, tends to come off pretty good, and this is no exception.