The Larry Stephenson Band,
Clinch Mountain Mystery
(Pinecastle, 2003)

The subtitle of this album is "Celebrating Fifteen Years ... Over a Decade and Still on Fire!" The music captured on Clinch Mountain Mystery makes one realize those 15 years have not been wasted. Larry Stephenson gathers his band and studio musicians Randy Barnes, Dustin Benson, Bobby Hicks, Aaron McDaris, Ron Stewart and Bryan Sutton to help him celebrate.

So many great musicians and such cohesiveness. The sound is like pure, clear spring water that comes bubbling down, cleansed in the rocky heights under the hot rays of sky-blue sunshine.

One of the best things is that the bluegrass isn't overdone. It's timed just right. Sizzling on this plank is an aromatic, done-to-perfection slab of bluegrass if I ever smelled one.

Stephenson, band and guests do Tom T. Hall's tune "The Pretty Blue Dress" up just fine and there's another that Tom T. and Dixie Hall composed called "Clinch Mountain Mystery," the title track, and you'd think it was written just for these fellows. "Cruzin' in Overdrive" is a great piece by Arron McDaris and Dustin Benson, and the picking is fabulous.

I couldn't find a tune I didn't like, and I give credit to the confidence and respect these players have for the music and for each other. This CD is an out-right celebration of the fire that burns within for bluegrass, just like it says on the cover.

Imagining these songs done in straight country, I wouldn't buy into it. But plaster Stephenson's voice all over them and I want to cry and croon and celebrate right along with him. The band and the musical guests put down just-right instrumentals on every track. If you don't mind a bit of spit and polish on your bluegrass, you should give this a whirl. It's good, good music.

- Rambles
written by Virginia MacIsaac
published 30 October 2004

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