LARRY STEPHENSON, “What Really Matters,” Compass. 12 tracks.

LARRY STEPHENSON, “What Really Matters,” Compass. 12 tracks.

Larry Stephenson, one of the best tenors in bluegrass, has been making music for a long time. He started playing mandolin at 5, cut his first record at 13 and began touring with his father’s band while he was still in high school.

After high school, Stephenson worked with Cliff Waldron and Leon Morris before joining Bill Harrell & The Virginians in 1979. Four years later, he moved to the Bluegrass Cardinals.

And in 1989, he formed his own band and began making his own music.

“What Really Matters,” the latest in a long series of Stephenson albums,  is a blend of country, gospel and traditional bluegrass.

Kenny Ingram’s banjo gets a workout on Jimmy Martin’s “Bear Tracks.” Sam Bush comes aboard for a retelling of Woody Guthrie’s “Philadelphia Lawyer.” And Stephenson performs a classic country rendition of Loretta Lynn’s 1964 “Before I’m Over You” complete with steel guitar and snare drums.

There’s the gospel of “God Will” and “On The Jericho Road,” the pain of “My Heart Is On The Mend” and “You’re Too Easy To Remember” and the love of “What Really Matters” and “I See Love.”

There’s a solid bluegrass version of Merle Haggard’s “The Seashores of Old Mexico,” a hard-charging version of Ronnie Reno’s “Big Train” and a bluesy version of “The Blues Don’t Care Who’s Got ‘Em.”

A good album by a great musician.

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