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Many bluegrass luminaries begin their careers by serving long apprenticeships with high-powered bandleaders, but Stephenson cut his teeth in two lesser-known outfits, then took charge of a group of his own in 1989. Since then he's remained exclusively with Pinecastle Records and made no effort to cross over to mainstream audiences or water down his music. His appealing voice is high pitched and effortlessly malleable, and he has such precise control over it that he can inject all sorts of different emotions in sudden, careful stabs of feeling. His band includes bassist Kyle Perkins, guitarist Kevin Richardson, banjoist Kenny Ingram, and fiddler Josh Green.
Chris Abrahams, Thrown (Room 40)
Various artists, Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Ghanaian Blues 1968-81 (Soundway)
Jon Appleton & Don Cherry, Human Music (Flying Dutchman/Water)
Zero Boys, History of Zero Boys (Secretly Canadian)
Cesaria Evora, Nha Sentimento (Lusafrica)