It's not a cute stunt. The man who's lucky enough to be married to this year's Best Female Vocalist really is St. Louis' Best Male Vocalist. Where other raggedly glorious Midwestern crooners seem content with trying to break your heart, Mark Stephens succeeds, every time. When he goes into that beautiful, tattered upper register of his, you have to take a big gulp of Stag and a hard drag of Camel to stifle the tears. You can hear every last minute of Stephens' life in his voice, whether he's hollerin' for Fred's Variety Group or his other band, the Highway Matrons (maybe you've heard of them?). Pitch, color and timbre don't mean a thing in the vocal arts if you can't get a crowd to hurt like hell with you, and this old geezer (happy 40th, Mark!) has been knocking 'em dead since he arrived in the Lou from Kalamazoo back in '89.
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