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AlanN
Feb-26-2011, 8:12am
Have re-listened to this lately. Simply sublime. Here's a review that says it all...

This album pointed the way to a brighter bluegrass future. Once the sixties folk revival was over, seventies arena rock and disco threatened to bury acoustic music. Five eclectic musicians from Washington, D.C. showed that a band could contemporize its approach without selling its soul. And without the artless pandering of drums, electric guitars or plug-in bass. By Act II, the Scene sound was seamless, a richly textured blend of vocal alchemy and sparkling string prowess that defied efforts at categorization. Duffey's irrepressible mandolin style recalled Paris dog music of the thirties; Auldridge seemed poised to turn each piece into an improvizational dobro reflection. When their voices joined Starling's on a chorus the effect was not unlike the rapture of medieval liturgical music. The days of expecting audiences to indulge more than a few rough edges just because it was mountian music were over. Bluegrass was ready to leave the hills and hollers of Appalachia. And leave it did. The Seldom Scene's influence in the emergence of bluegrass onto the world stage has been well chronicled. One New York Times music critic proclaimed the Seldom Scene "quite simply the best bluegrass band in the world." The Times' sudden interest in bluegrass demonstrated just how close to the banks of the musical mainstream the Scene and others had managed to haul it. What may sometimes be less clearly recalled is how impactful and how good this single album really was. All the elements that would grow and deepen over the years into Scene trademarks are evident here: Starling's introspective and authoritative baritone; Auldridge's confident and daring dobro; Duffey's startling mandolin breaks and seemingly limitless, chameleon-like tenor; well-crafted original compositions alongside effective reworkings of material from far outside the genre; exuberant and sublime vocal finales; the consistently satisfying vocal presentation that captivated fans, inspired bands and raised expectations for how good a bluegrass band was supposed to sound. Released in 1973 , Act II was quite simply a difference-maker in American acoustic music.

Willie Poole
Feb-26-2011, 5:32pm
Great review but me being a country boy I don`t understand some of those big words in it....

dcoventry
Feb-26-2011, 9:48pm
"quite simply the best bluegrass band in America..."


Ah, yup. YMMV.

swampstomper
Feb-27-2011, 2:47am
"quite simply the best bluegrass band in America..."

Ah, yup. YMMV.

I had the same reaction to that.... when Act II was released Ralph was in his prime with Roy Lee Centers, Jack Cooke, Curly Ray Cline with a couple of extra sidemen (or, boys at the time) named Keith and Ricky... now whether you call it mountain music or bluegrass, **that** was a band...

I never could stand Starling's affected and self-important singing. And the Scene did not then have the tightness of a real bluegrass band -- except for Tom Gray who kept them all together. More a group of pickers showing off. Listen "Live at Celler Door" from the same period and you may hear what I mean.

Only when Lou Reid and Dudley Connell joined the Scene, they turned into a tight bluegrass band IMHO.

Andy B
Mar-03-2011, 10:15pm
I share Alan's view of Act II and of the Seldom Scene of that era. I love the Starling/Duffey/Auldridge trio, and Mike's dobro in particular. Also, the band put its distinctive stamp on some very strong songs on that record, including Norman Blake's haunting "Last Train From Poor Valley" and a great grass version of "Train Leaves Here This Morning." Finally, they introduced a lot of folks to bluegrass and to the music of the first generation greats -- Act II included a great version of "I've Lost You" by Earl Scruggs. I'm sure many Scene fans went on to enjoy Bill and Lester and Earl and Carter and Ralph, etc.

Ivan Kelsall
Mar-04-2011, 1:47am
At their best,the SS were quite simply one of the very finest 'progressive' Bluegrass bands around & i have several of their recordings,both on LP & CD. Unfortunately,by the time i got to see them live when i visited the Birchmere in '92,they were well past their 'sell by' date. They'd been playing there for 13 years & they sounded tired.It was only the fact that Tony Rice was headlining that night that lifted the occasion.
Sorry to sound the only dull note on this thread,but yes,at their best they were a fantastic band,
Ivan

AlanN
Mar-04-2011, 7:36am
I share Alan's view of Act II and of the Seldom Scene of that era. I love the Starling/Duffey/Auldridge trio, and Mike's dobro in particular. Also, the band put its distinctive stamp on some very strong songs on that record, including Norman Blake's haunting "Last Train From Poor Valley" and a great grass version of "Train Leaves Here This Morning." Finally, they introduced a lot of folks to bluegrass and to the music of the first generation greats -- Act II included a great version of "I've Lost You" by Earl Scruggs. I'm sure many Scene fans went on to enjoy Bill and Lester and Earl and Carter and Ralph, etc.

The one instrumental tune on there is a banjo number called Smokin' Hickory, in D chord. When JD takes his break, he plays it on the 'back end', meaning his lines accent the & of 1&2. Hard to explain, but the solo is memorable for that reason.

Love me some SS (from that era). There's a live show Washington, DC, maybe 1973. Has much of that sound.

250sc
Mar-04-2011, 7:45am
"artless pandering of drums, electric guitars or plug-in bass"?????? LOL

Of course drums and electric instruments could only be considered "artless".

I agree it was a great band though.