From Lost Luggage to Newfound Inspiration

Scenechronized (Sugar Hill)
Seldom Scene

By Bob Mitchell

Many years before "9/11" musicians could travel by plane and feel somewhat secure that their instruments might be safe in the luggage compartment. Once, I recall landing at the Washington, D.C., airport on the same flight as the Seldom Scene. As we waited for our instruments to appear on the conveyor belt, John Duffey, Ben Eldridge and I laughed about lost luggage horror stories. I loved the Scene's music back then and I still love them today so this review will not be totally objective. Sorry, but a review has to be honest.

After a seven-year recording hiatus, the Scene is back and they are cooking on all burners. This disc contains the familiar sound of a band that has been around for 36 years, specifically, trademark harmonies, sparkling instrumental work and intelligent arrangements. The group's current configuration has been together longer than any other since the 1996 death of John Duffey, a founding member. Today, Ben Eldridge (banjo and guitar) is joined by Dudley Connell on guitar and lead and harmony vocals; Ronnie Simpkins on bass and harmony vocals; Chris Eldridge on guitar; Lou Reid on mandolin and lead and harmony vocals; and Fred Travers on Dobro and lead and harmony vocals

The release is a tribute to the band's past as much as it is a statement about the present. In short, it is a first rate display of compelling virtuosity and innovation. The boys revisit two old friends, caressing the songs with love and reverence: the tragic tale of "Katie Dear," and the classic "This Morning at Nine." They also pay homage to Duffey with a plaintive rendering of his "Don't Bother With White Satin." I especially enjoyed the covers for Carter Stanley's "Sweetest Love," Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried," Steve Earle's "Hometown Blues," and Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is A Long Time."

Other musical highlights included terrific harmony on "Heart and Soul;" Eldridge's banjo work on "Sweetest Love" and "Katie Dear;" and Connell's vocals on "You Remind Me of the Blues," the heartfelt "Please Be With Me" and a lightly rocking "Too Bad You're No Good."

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