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Smithsonian Folkways (SFWCD40199)

California Cottonfields, Wait A Minute, What Am I Doin’ Hangin’ ‘Round, Hickory Wind, I’ll Be No Stranger There, Walk Through This World With Me, Big Train (From Memphis), With Body And Soul, Paradise, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Mean Mother Blues, My Better Years, Little Georgia Rose, Like I Used To Do, Through The Bottom Of The Glass, Lorena

An American bluegrass band that has been around since 1971, The Seldom Scene has developed a strong and loyal following despite an unusually high turnover of personnel over the years. This is the seventeenth album recorded in their name but it is unusual in that it acts as re-union of sorts, involving current members plus a number of founding and previous members not involved for some time. What’s more, it also re-visits many of the band’s favourite songs previously recorded on earlier albums.

All of this history and detail is beautifully encapsulated in the exemplary booklet that accompanies this CD, a full 36 pages that also complements the biography of the band with thoughts and recollections of members alongside excellent introductions to each of the 16 songs re-recorded for this album.

This booklet and the packaging as a whole is only a tremendous addition however to the real attraction here:  the sheer quality of the music. As well as the endlessly intricate interplay between seasoned and talented musicians, the warm sound of the recording and empathetic harmonies of the singers (rarely heard outside records by the Louvin Brothers or Everly Brothers), it is perhaps the songs chosen that keep bringing me back. Superb versions are included of Gram Parsons Hickory Wind (with a guest appearance from Emmylou Harris), Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, Hazel Dickens My Better Years, George Jones Walk Through This World With Me and so many more. In fact, there is honestly not a poor song or bad performance on the whole album, with special favourites including the only instrumental included, the exquisite Lorena, a sublime version of Wait A Minute and the jaw-dropping waltz Like I Used To Do (pretty much the single best piece of music I have heard this year!).

In case you can’t take the hint, I absolutely love this CD and strongly suspect I always will. If this does not act as a testimonial and recommendation, I don’t know what will!



Review Date: June 2014

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