LARRY STEPHENSON BAND
Whysper Dream Music
From the jaunty opening banjo riffs of the up-tempo love lament “Yesterday’s Gone” (penned by C. Stuart and W. Kidd) right on through to the restless refrains of the closing cut—a haunting rendition of Alton Delmore’s “Midnight Train”—the Larry Stephenson Band’s new 12-track collection bristles with authority and gusto.
As co-producers, Stephenson and his long-time collaborator Ben Surratt have managed to bottle the emotional immediacy of a live performance and uncork it in the studio. You hear this austere power with particular clarity on the cleverly written, subversively humorous and superbly performed Bill Anderson oldie “Nail My Shoes To The Floor.”
Similar delights abound. For starters, there’s the heartrending “Weep Little Willow, Weep” (co-written by Donna Ulisse and Rick Stanley), the sardonic and soulful Mac Wiseman-penned prison lament “Free Me From This Old Chain Gang,” and the painfully nuanced Randall Hylton plaint, “It Almost Feels Like Love.”
Stephenson and his band really pull out the stops on their reprise of Bill Monroe’s timelessly beautiful “Kentucky Waltz,” showcasing their accomplished musicianship and highlighting the authority and persuasiveness of Stephenson’s rich tenor voice. (Whysper Dream Music, 1937 Upper Station Camp Creek Rd., Cottontown, TN 37048, www.whysperdream.com.)BA