I felt a quiet sense of excitement and anticipation just opening this deeply inspired new retrospective collection and playing it for the first time. It’s a landmark release from a landmark band. It’s musical history.
It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), the Seldom Scene is one of the most influential and durable bands in modern bluegrass history. And Long Time… fittingly celebrates and documents the Scene’s illustrious 43-year history, during which numerous gifted musicians have come and gone and, in some cases, come and gone again.
The concept behind this collection came from Pete Reineger, Folkways’ three-time Grammy-winning sound production supervisor. Reineger convened the Seldom Scene’s current and longest running lineup, along with former founding members John Starling and Tom Gray, and had them revisit roughly a dozen and a half of the band’s signature songs. These include “Wait A Minute,” “Hickory Wind,” “Paradise,” “Big Train (From Memphis),” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” among quite a few others.
Joining these past and present members in the studio were guests Emmylou Harris, singer-guitarist Chris Eldridge (son of the Scene’s banjo player Ben Eldridge), and fiddler Rickie Simpkins (brother of the Scene’s bass player, Ronnie Simpkins). What’s amazing is the soulfulness, freshness, and immediacy this lineup brings to these chestnuts, which they’ve no doubt performed countless times over the years. Also well worth mentioning are the excellent 35-page liner notes written by Reineger, who also mixes these tracks. Included is a comprehensive 26-page biography of the band and track-by-track annotations that explain how each of these songs found its way into the band’s repertoire.
Like the Seldom Scene’s 15th Anniversary: Live At The Kennedy Center album from 1986, Long Time…Seldom Scene is a landmark in this band’s rich, storied, and still unfolding history. (Smithsonian Folkways, P.O. Box 37012, MRC 520, CG 2001, Washington, DC 20013, www.folkways.si.edu.)BA