“Thankful,” The Larry
Stephenson Band’s new CD, hit retail shelves Wednesday on the heels of
several favorable advance reviews.
It’s Stephenson’s fourth gospel
album and, according to the band leader, a CD that marks a shift in
the band’s musical pilgrimage.
“Our fans like our gospel music and
I truly enjoy performing them,” Stephenson said. “Our most requested
song to this day, after almost two decades together, is a gospel song
titled ‘Yes, I See God.’”
The album’s songs all focus on the
theme of gratefulness.
“These songs came from everywhere,”
Stephenson said. “I co-wrote ‘Everyday Is Mother’s Day’ with Tom T.
and Dixie Hall and also co-wrote ‘Open Up The Window (Let The Angels
In)’ with Jerry Salley.
Thankful Reviews & News You Can Use
(printed in the Kansas City Star)
MUSIC REVIEWS: Bluegrass music releases
By KEITH LAWRENCE
LARRY STEPHENSON, "Thankful,"
Pinecastle. 12 tracks.
Larry Stephenson began
playing bluegrass as a high school student with his own band - Larry
Stephenson & The New Grass - back home in Virginia in the mid-1970s. He
turned professional in January 1979, playing mandolin and singing high
lead with Bill Harrell & The Virginians and then moved on to The
Bluegrass Cardinals in June 1983.
Then, in October 1988, Stephenson went solo again with The Larry
Stephenson Band. In other words, he's been around the block a time or
two. And through the past three decades, Stephenson has honed his voice
into one of the best bluegrass tenors this side of Bobby Osborne.
"Thankful," the fourth bluegrass gospel album of his career, is a
collection of mainly uptempo material that gives the entire band a
Stephenson's tenor soars on uptempo material like "How High Is That
Mountain," "Press On O' Pilgrim" and
"Washed In The Blood of the Lamb." But the ballads - the title cut,
"I Need The Prayers," "Lord, It's A Hard Road Home" and "Open Up The
Window (Let The Angels In)" - really let his vocals shine.
Sonya Isaacs, Ben Surratt, Warren Goad, Dustin Benson and Aaron McDaris
provide strong harmonies as well.
As strong as it is, "Thankful," has had a slow journey to the music
bins. It was recorded between May 2005 and January 2007
Stephenson has a lot to be grateful for. The 51-year old bluegrass veteran
celebrates his 19th year as the leader of his own band this year and will
also mark his 19th year with Pinecastle Records with the release of
Stephenson started his career as a
teenager playing around his native Virginia with his father before joining
Bill Harrell and His Virginians in 1979. After four years with Harrell, he
made the move to the Bluegrass Cardinals where he spent nearly six years
as mandolin player and tenor singer.
In 1989, he made the decision to strike
out on his own forming the Larry Stephenson Band and releasing his first
solo album on the Webco label, which was later bought by Tom Riggs of
His newest all-gospel release, his
fourth of the kind, was actually to be completed nearly three years ago,
but was sidelined by a vicious killer.
"I jokingly tell people that the
ï¿½Knoxville Boy' kind of showed up and put an end to the gospel album,"
Stephenson says from his home just north of Nashville in reference to the
Tom T. and Dixie Hall song that became a linchpin for his 2006 release
"We started to record something to
follow up ï¿½Clinch Mountain Mystery' with, and I had been way overdue on
a gospel album. So, I talked to Pinecastle," he says. "We got in the
studio and started recording. When the ï¿½Life Stories' album was cut, it
was to be an all-gospel album."
But after hearing more of the Halls'
songs, the project changed direction.
Sunday Morning Revelations - Thankful
on the Bluegrass Blog 3.16.08
Writer: Richard F Thompson
Pinecastle PRC 1161
Larry Stephenson is one of the best high
lead / tenor singers in bluegrass today. He has a voice uncannily like
that of Bobby Osborne's and there can't be any higher praise than that.
Osborne is a big fan, readily praising
Stephenson's contributions to the bluegrass genre.
'Thankful' is Larry Stephenson's fourth
bluegrass Gospel release and his second for his current label Pinecastle
In addition to Stephenson, playing
mandolin, there are contributions from his band members Dustin Benson
(guitar, and lead and harmony vocals), Aaron McDaris (banjo, and lead and
harmony vocals), with guest appearances by Sonya Isaacs (harmony vocals),
Warren Goad (bass vocals), Ben Surratt (harmony vocals), Missy Raines
(acoustic bass) and Shad Cobb (fiddles).
ALL MUSIC GUIDE
REVIEW - THANKFUL
Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., All
“Since 1998, Larry
Stephenson has recorded a long string of albums for Pinecastle, a label
featuring solid roots music. As one might guess from the title, Thankful,
Stephenson and his crack band have chosen to focus on gospel music. To be
more specific, Thankful is bluegrass gospel, similar to the work of Doyle
Lawson and Quicksilver. Stephenson's a traditionalist, and the music here
harks back to a time when bluegrass pickers (and gospel singers) worried
less about radio programming or the fact that they might sound too country
or Southern. Instead, Stephenson, Dustin Benson, Aaron McDaris, Sonya
Isaacs, Ben Surratt, Missy Raines, and Shad Cobb dig deep into country
roots on songs like "Lord It's a Hard Road Home" and "How High Is That
Mountain." The band has a number of good singers, allowing for a
great deal of versatility with arrangements, and the instrumental work is
crisp and spunky (it would have been nice to have a track-by-track
breakdown of the vocalists). Lyrically, the songs center on fundamental
Christianity, emphasizing the importance of living a good life despite
trails and tribulations, and the importance of preparing for an even
better life in the next world. For gospel lovers, Stephenson fans,
and anyone who appreciates well-performed roots music, Thankful is an
Time - Thankful Review
By Kevin Oliver, March 2008
Larry Stephenson grows "Thankful"“Larry
Stephenson has long been considered one of the finest singers in
bluegrass, and gospel music has been an integral part of bluegrass since
its beginnings. So, this new all-gospel bluegrass collection brings out
the best in a set of songs ranging from well heeled classics to newly
minted tunes destined to become standards.
The best of the latter is Dixie and Tom T. Hall's, “Lord It's a Hard
Road Home,” while the former is well represented by the traditional,
“Press On O' Pilgrim.” With this disc being released in the midst of the
Easter season, “Washed In The Blood of the Lamb,” is another highlight.
Notable guests include Sonya Isaacs and Missy Raines, though the core
band sticks firmly to the basic tenents of traditional bluegrass. The
extra hands don't really stick out, allowing instead the message behind
the tunes to resonate even clearer.”
Larry Stephenson Band
Plays Lucketts Saturday
Larry Stephenson “Thankful” (Pinecastle)
- Longtime bluegrass favorites
The Larry Stephenson Band
recently signed with GoodStuff PR Co. for exclusive PR representation
for their upcoming gospel release, Thankful, as well as
future band endeavors.
The album, which features guest
appearances by Sonya Isaacs, Missy Raines, Warren Goad, Shad Cobb and
Ben Surratt, hits the streets on March 18th through Pinecastle
Records. Thankful comes on the heels of the highly successful
Life Stories released in 2007 that featured a collection of
emotional tales with a common human thread.
Stephenson has been called “One of
the best and most influential of high lead/tenor singers in recent
years,” by Bluegrass Now Magazine and “One of the finest voices in
Bluegrass today” by Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine.
Stephenson was recently inducted
into the 2007 Southern Legends Entertainment & Performing Arts Hall of
In other news, Josh Williams will
join The Larry Stephenson Band for their Thankful 2008 Tour
and beyond in addition to playing the already scheduled dates with his
own group, the Josh Williams Band. Williams will replace Ben Helson on
guitar and Larry wishes Ben the best of luck in his new endeavors.
Williams is a multi-instrumentalist,
perhaps best known as the guitar player for the top ranked Rhonda
Vincent & The Rage in their grueling 300 days per year touring
schedule from December 2003 through September 2007. He is also known
by some as the excellent mandolin/fiddle player formerly with Special
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Larry Stephenson ?Thankful? (Pinecastle) Nashville, TN - Longtime
bluegrass favorites The Larry Stephenson Band recently signed with
GoodStuff PR Co. for exclusive PR representation for their upcoming gospel
release, Thankful, as well as future band endeavors. The album, which
features guest appearances by Sonya Isaacs, Missy Raines, Warren Goad,
Shad Cobb and Ben Surratt, hits the streets on March 18th through
Pinecastle Records. Thankful comes on the heels of the highly successful