Larry Stephenson has had a substantial career in bluegrass music. From his professional beginnings as a sideman with acts such as Bill Harrell & the Virginians and the Bluegrass Cardinals, audiences quickly came to love his distinctive high tenor vocals. In 1989 Stephenson formed his own group, carving out an even greater path for himself as one of bluegrass music’s preeminent band leaders. Retrospective LSB Live, the first all live recording by the Larry Stephenson Band, is a wonderful reflection of the group’s 32 year history.
Larry has always had a gift of finding great talent, speaking both instrumentally and vocally. Many different players are featured throughout the collection’s sixteen songs, such as Kenny Ingram, Kristin Scott Benson, Mickey Harris, Jason Barie, Dustin Benson, and Kyle Perkins, among others. Current band members Derek Vaden and Nick Dauphinais are featured on several tracks as well.
While other artists have released compilations in a similar vein, the biggest difference here is that none of the material is presented in chronological order. In this case that really shouldn’t matter. Retrospective LSB Live is mixed and edited in such a way that you feel like you’re listening to a full Larry Stephenson Band performance, even though all the tracks were recorded at numerous venues with various lineups over many years. Audio engineers Ben Surratt and Eddie Faris did a masterful job in this regard. It’s even further proof of the high level of consistency that Stephenson has maintained with his musical style over the last 32 years.
This recording has a great sense of variety to it. Right out of the gate are riveting renditions of Country Side of Heaven (Where the Bluegrass Music Flows) and I Should’ve Called. Another strong highlight here is Larry’s treatment of the Gospel classic, Rock of Ages. It’s a fine example of the power and emotion that have drawn so many listeners to his voice. One of the most interesting tracks on this collection is the band’s interpretation of the Merle Haggard song, The Seashores of Old Mexico, which they originally recorded on their 2012 release, What Really Matters. Stephenson has also treated us with several fan favorites such as Restless Blue Eyed Lover, Patches, and Yes, I See God, among others.
If you’re new to the music of the Larry Stephenson Band, Retrospective LSB Live is a fine introduction. If you’re a long-time fan wanting to revisit some of your favorite songs or Larry Stephenson Band configurations, you will not be disappointed in the least. This live compilation is strong evidence of Stephenson’s staying power as both a vocalist and band leader.