REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/29/2012
After the incredible work done on their first album, Act 1, the Seldom Scene return in 1973 for Act 2, which is no less impressive than their first venture. While on Act 1 the group hinted that their repertoire was going to be wholly different from the traditional bluegrass template, pulling in mainstream folk and even pop music, Act 2 sees the group wading a little deeper into the pool.
It must be understood that 1972 bluegrass music still contained much of the original Bill Monroe sound or high, lonesome twang that many associate with the music. But hailing from the Washington D.C. area, the only thing tying the Seldom Scene to that particular sound was a love and respect for the music in general. But their execution of it with a more modern flare and the introduction of more mainstream songs led by a velvet-voiced John Starling did much to make bluegrass music what it is today. The group still holds to the old ways with the brother duet sounding “The Sweetest Gift,” and the Earl Scruggs-penned "I've Lost You," but they also offer an incredible version of John Prine’s “Paradise,” and a cover of "Hello Mary Lou" which would make the listener think that the song was actually written for bluegrass. And there is the oddly placed, banjo-picked "Lara's Theme" from Doctor Zhivago.
Act 2 opens with a train themed song as did Act 1. Norman Blake’s "Last Train From Poor Valley" is a lament not only of the loss of jobs in a once booming coal town, but also of a materialistic girl leaving her man behind in that squalor. They group also slows down for the folk flavored "Keep Me From Blowin Away."
Without a doubt "Small Exception Of Me" is the true standout of the album. John Duffey pulls off a stunning performance which would be hard to top. The three part harmonies, Mike Auldridge’s dobro, and Ben Eldridge’s banjo picking are simply beautiful. With similarly beautiful dexterity, the Scene dust off one of the best religious tunes that Hank Williams wrote, “House Of Gold” to wrap up the album.
With Act 2, the Seldom Scene firmly cemented their place in bluegrass music. Although they were still trying to hold onto their day jobs, it would not be long before they were no longer seldom seen as their name implied, and they certainly became much loved.