As innovative and indispensable today as it was back in the
J. Ross | Roseburg, OR USA | 05/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Playing Time - 41:29 -- When the Seldom Scene first formed in the Washington, D.C. area in 1971, they chose their name because they planned to stay close to home and only play once or twice a week. Their first gig, The Rabbit's Foot bar, was a short-lived engagement because the bartender refused to turn down the television. Then, the band built a solid reputation by playing weekly at venues like Red Fox Inn (Bethesda, Md.) and Birchmere (Alexandria, Va.) All the while they were recording and releasing albums on the Rebel label. "Different Roads" is a compilation of 14 songs from three of their early albums (Act Two, Old Train, The New Seldom Scene Album) that were put out in 1973-1976. The core band included John Starling (guitar, vocal), John Duffey (mandolin, vocal), Ben Eldridge (banjo), Mike Auldridge (Dobro, vocal) and Tom Gray (bass). On this CD, Eldridge also plays Dobro-banjo on two numbers. Paul Craft's guitar is also in the mix on "Different Roads" and "Wait A Minute." Craft composed the piece entitled "Keep Me From Blowin' Away." Ricky Skaggs plays viola on "Different Roads" and fiddle on "Old Train." Mike Cuff's drums are heard on "Easy Ride From Good Times to the Blues" that also features Mike Auldridge's pedal steel. From a historical perspective, that cut, while not my favorite, still illustrates their ability to be a country band if they wanted to.
John Duffey once said, "I don't see anything wrong with trying to put new things into the music and upgrade and update it, which has been one of my ambitions. Something for years that I've tried to do is to bring new things into the music-- keep the music moving with the times rather than just lying stagnant." John's father had sung with the Metropolitan Opera, and Duffey's greatest mark was undoubtedly his soaring tenor vocals and distinctive stamp on the band's vocal arrangements. This collection offers about an equal amount of Starling's and Duffey's lead vocalizing. Besides some of their own original material (Different Roads, Gardens and Memories, Reason for Being), there are songs from the pens of Hank Williams, Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, Norman Blake and others.
Canadian songwriter Pauline Beauchamp's tale of a band on the road, "Rebels `Ye Rest," mentions burning eyes, lonely hours, and stormy weather. By 1976, the band was probably experiencing more of these undesirable things during their travels further afield. Herb Pedersen wrote Old Train, Wait A Minute, and Easy Ride From Good Times to the Blues. The band's smart execution is what really set them apart.
The Seldom Scene's formula was to find strong contemporary material, as well as put their own personalized stamp on older songs.
I always liked what they did with the Blue Sky Boys' "Sweetest Gift" (unfortunately not sampled here). Their material always exhibited considerable creativity, and their recordings had high sound quality. One could always argue about which 14 cuts to select from the three albums sampled, but these are Rebel Records President Dave Freeman's choices. I might've lobbied also for Paradise, Hello Mary Lou, Big Rig and their driving bluegrass rendition of "I Haven't Got the Right to Love You." There was also probably some business or financial reason that one of two cuts from the "Old Train" LP with Linda Ronstadt didn't make it into this set. Between "Old Crossroads" and "Bottom of the Glass," I would've suggested the former be included. Finally, it might not have hurt to include an instrumental like "Smokin' Hickory" or "Laura" too. My point is that I prefer to see compilation albums run about an hour, but then a fan might not feel compelled to go out and purchase the three albums sampled, right? There are plenty of great songs on all three of them that didn't make it onto this "Different Roads" project.
If you don't already own the three seminal albums that these songs are drawn from, "Different Roads" serves as a good introduction to the early and dynamic Seldom Scene. You'll quickly realize that the band sounds as innovative and indispensable today as they did back in the 1970s. Their creative approach has certainly contributed a great deal to the entire bluegrass "scene." (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)
Bomojaz | South Central PA, USA | 04/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you enjoy sophisticated and dead-on harmony singing in the bluegrass tradition, Seldom Scene is a group you will no doubt love. The group recorded 7 albums for Rebel Records in the 1970s and this CD re-releases 14 tracks from 3 of those albums: ACT 2, OLD TRAIN, and THE NEW SELDOM SCENE ALBUM. These early sides are superb examples of the "new" sound of harmony singing brought into bluegrass back then and the advanced, even jazz influenced (to my ears) solo and obbligato playing of the instrumentalists; the use of dobro is a tremendous advancement. The tunes DIFFERENT ROADS, REBELS YE REST, AND KEEP ME FROM BLOWIN AWAY are instant attention-getters, but just about every song here is a real gem. (Only EASY RIDE FROM GOOD TIMES TO THE BLUES is a misstep, mainly because of the employment of drums.) This CD contains a tremendous amount of great, great stuff; definitely grab it when you can.