If anyone in Nashville was born to sing, it's Lari White.
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Stepping Stone, her Lyric Street Records debut, marks the rebirth of one of music city's most electrifying vocal talents. Lari's performances have always been characterized by drama and passion. Hits like "Now I Know" and "That's My Baby" have earned her widespread respect and popularity in the world of country music. But this year she is unleashing the most explosive vocals and finest songs of her career.
"I'm coming out of a very experimental and creative time," Lari explains. I've been exploring my music in new ways. I'm stronger and more comfortable with myself than ever before and I think you hear that in this album.
"We set up a vocal booth in my dining room, which is one of the reasons that the vocals are so much stronger on this album. I felt so comfortable and free, and I could afford to really push myself and not settle for anything less that my best."
The proof is in the listening. Lari's performances on Steeping Stone cut a wide emotional swath, from the fiery gospel intensity of "Look Homeward Angel" to the lush romanticism of "On a Night Like This." She is a bone-weary "everyman" on "Tired," an optimistic survivor on "Stepping Stone" and a joyous lover on "That's What You Do (For This Heart of Mine)." The complex emotions of "You Can't Tale That From Me," the wistful nostalgia of "You Can't Go Home Again" and a full-throttle sensuality of "Only God Could Stop Me Loving You" are all within the grasp of this expressive stylist.
"I've been really lucky on songs with this album," Lari says, citing such lyrics as "John Wayne Walking Away" and "Take Me." "I've got better songs on this album than I've ever had."
The fact she is one of the collection's principal songwriters, simply adds to the level of admiration for Stepping Stone. Lari's songwriting contributions to the album are "Stepping Stone," the sizzling title track and lead-off single, as well as the romantic "This Is Love." In addition to singing and writing, Lari is well known on Music Row for her technical knowledge in the recording studio.
She has been multi-talented all her life. Lari White sang pop and gospel in her family's group as a child in Florida, tried rock music as a teen, majored in studio engineering in college, sang with the BeeGees and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and earned critical applause as a stage actor during her early years in Nashville.
Lari first came to notice in music city as the 1988 winner on the Nashville Networks' TV talent contest You Can Be A Star. While developing as a country artist she became a staff songwriter for Ronnie Milsap's publishing company, toured as Rodney Crowell's backup singer and performed in plays and musicals such as "Crimes of the Heart" and Fiddler on the Roof.
Her debut album, "Lead Me Not, led to an Academy of Country Music nomination as the Top New Female Vocalist of 1994. Wishes, her second collection put her on the road with superstar George Strait and became a Gold Record. She scored big radio hits with such singles as "That's How You Know (When You're in Love)," "That's My Baby" (both of which she co-wrote), "Now I Know" and "Ready Willing and Able." Such memorable videos as "What a Woman Wants" and "Wild at Heart" made her a favorite with CMT viewers. But after the release of her 1996 album, Don't Fence Me In, she and her record label parted company.
"I went through every emotion you can imagine," she recalls. "On the one hand I was relieved to be out of a situation where I didn't feel I was given enough support. On the other hand it was 'Oh no! I'm a recording artist, I'm a singer, I've got to make records, that's my life!' But I'm not a quitter - I just threw myself into writing songs and asking God to show me what was next.
She was Harley idle. Lari sang the title tune to the Grammy Award winning Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel. She produced, performed and wrote a track on the NFL Country album. She also produced her performance of "Power in the Blood" which was included on the soundtrack of Robert Duvall's acclaimed movie, The Apostle./I> She co-wrote "Helping Me Get Over You," which became a hit duet for her with Travis Tritt in 1997 and was nominated for a TNN/Music City News Award. She issued a Best of Lari White collection. She was selected for the prestigious Leadership Music association and successfully completed its intense, professional-development program.
And in 1997 Lari White and her husband, songwriter Chuck Cannon, also welcomed daughter M'Kenzy Rayne into the world. It is her proudest production of all, she says. All in all, her "time off" was highly productive.
I didn't study what was going on in country music. I didn't listen to the radio for about a year. We don't get TV, so I wasn't watching CMT. I kind of got out of 'Nashville thinking' and just explored music."
When her old friend, Randy Goodman, launched Lyric Street Records as the Disney company's venture into country music, Lari's destiny was clear. He wanted her as his flagship artist. She wanted to be in the excitement of his new environment. And they both wanted a killer album.
The result is Stepping Stone. :Lari selected famed Nashville guitarist, Dann Huff, as its producer after being introduced to him by Lyric Street Records Sr. Vice President of AA&R, Doug Howard and "because he is on fire and unbelievably talented. Dann brought a lot of hunger and passion to the table." She gathered tunes from the cream of the country composing community, writers such as Deborah Allen, Bob DiPiero, Stephony Smith, Allen Shamblin and Mutt Lange, as well as her gifted husband, Chuck Cannon.
Previous Lari White albums have featured guest appearances by such talents as Trisha Yearwood, Hal Ketchum, Radney Foster, Travis Tritt, Rodney Crowell, Shelby Lynne and Vince Gill. Stepping Stone introduces the Nashville gospel group Veritas and features Toby Keith as her spine-tingling duet partner on the powerful ballad "Only God Could Stop Me Loving You." But it's the larger-than-life voice of Lari White that is the project's centerpiece. It remains one of the most-impressive and distinctive instruments in contemporary Nashville.
"Country music is where I belong," says Lari White. "It's what I do and who I am. I have gotten so much great feedback from all kinds of people in the Nashville industry and from the fans. I am so happy to be back on the radio because I truly believe in this music."
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