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The Seldom Scene

"We try to find material that's a little bit different, and approach the music in a little bit broader way than most bluegrass bands do," said the Seldom Scene's Dudley Connell to The Baltimore Sun in 1998. Since their inception in 1971, the Seldom Scene have thrived on playing bluegrass a little differently than everyone else. If other bands used a fiddler, the Seldom Scene used a Dobro; if others relied on old standards, the Seldom Scene played rock classics like J.J. Cale's "After Midnight." Through skilled musicianship and an urban approach to bluegrass, the Seldom Scene have become one of the most influential -- if not the most influential -- bluegrass band of their time.

In 1971, mandolinist John Duffey, banjo player Ben Eldridge, guitarist John Starling, bassist Tom Gray, and Dobro player Mike Auldridge formed the Seldom Scene. The band derived its name from its once a week performances, first at the Red Fox Inn in Bethesda, Maryland, and later at the Birchmere Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. Early albums like 1973's Act 1 and 1975's Live at the Cellar Door set the pace for progressive bluegrass while defining a unique sound that included Starling's smooth vocals, Duffey's versatile tenor, and Auldridge's ringing Dobro. The band's smooth harmonies, love of eclectic material, and Duffey's colorful stage antics further separated the band from its peers. In 1977, Starling left the group to return to his medical practice and was replaced by vocalist Phil Rosenthal.

The addition of Rosenthal and a change of labels to Sugar Hill did little to alter the Seldom Scene's basic sound. The group's first two Sugar Hill albums, 1978's Act Four and 1981's After Midnight, continued to draw material from traditional sources like Jimmie Rodgers and contemporary ones like Eric Clapton. The later album included both "Lay Down Sally" and concert favorite "After Midnight." When performing live, the group enjoyed stretching out songs like "After Midnight," allowing Duffey and Auldridge to take extended solos that sounded closer to jazz than bluegrass. In 1986, after making five albums with the Seldom Scene, Rosenthal departed and was replaced by Lou Reid. Original bass player Gray also left, making room for T. Michael Coleman.

With the addition of two new bandmembers, the Seldom Scene recorded the appropriately titled Change of Scenery in 1988. Some fans objected to Coleman's electric bass, but despite this "progressive" change, albums like 1990's Scenic Roots proved to be more traditional than earlier efforts. The band also had a talent for turning pop songs like the Beatles' "What Goes On" into standard bluegrass material. In 1993 Reid left the band and was replaced with ex-member John Starling. Although Starling remained with the band for only a year, his return proved a real treat to fans of early-'70s lineup, as did the Seldom Scene's 1994 recording Like We Used to Be.

In 1995 and 1996 the Seldom Scene weathered more changes than several bands combined. In 1995, dissension came to surface within the Seldom Scene because of their light touring schedule and the feeling among certain members that the band had lost its progressive edge. Singer Mondi Klein, bassist Coleman, and original member Auldridge parted ways with the band to turn the progressive bluegrass band Chesapeake into a full-time project. The Seldom Scene's remaining members recruited Dobroist Fred Travers, bassist Ronnie Simpkins, and former Johnson Mountain Boys singer Dudley Connell. Together, the re-formed band recorded 1996's Dream Scene.

Before the band could consolidate its new lineup, founder and spiritual leader Duffey died of a heart attack. "John was 80 percent of the Seldom Scene," Eldridge told The Boston Herald, and no one, not even the band, could picture continuing without him. "The last year has been real tough for the band," Connell admitted to The Baltimore Sun in 1998. "Because [John] was not only a wonderful musician and singer, but also kind of the personality of the band." Still, many wanted the band to continue, and the year-old lineup wanted to carry on the work they had begun with Duffey, so they recruited ex-member Lou Reid to help out on vocals and play mandolin.

While Eldridge is the only remaining original member, the band continues to carry the spirit set forth by the Seldom Scene in 1971. Their 2000 recording Scene It All features both ringing Dobro and tight harmonies, as well as covers by Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan, while 2007's Different Roads anthology and the all-new Scenechronized continue the group's love affair with melody and impeccable musicianship. In what turned out to be a reunion of sorts, the band welcomed back both Starling and Gray to rework many of the band's most requested live songs for their 2014 studio album Long Time...Seldom Scene, which featured guest spots from Emmylou Harris, Chris Eldridge, and Rickie Simpkins. It was also the band's first recording for the Smithsonian Folkways label. The Seldom Scene continues to garner both critical acclaim and adoration from a legion of fans, emerging at the forefront of progressive as well as traditional bluegrass bands, continuing to amaze fans and influence future generations of musicians. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: I Know You Rider (Radio Single)

Comments

vaughanbasse g i o
Kick off the shoes have them dancen feet
Growing up in the deep south I thought I had seen and heard the best that bluegrass had to offer. Then I moved to DC and experienced Seldom Scene at the Birchmere on numerous occasions in the early to mid 90's. John Duffy and the rest of this incredible band changed my appreciation for bluegrass forever. R.I.P John and long live the great recordings you and the Scene left behind.
Do't read this because it works.On the nearest Friday you will be kissed by your crush/boyfri e n d . I f you don't post this on 5 songs in 145 you will die in 2 days. If you post this on 5 songs in you will have the best week of your life.
daemongraney
The Scene were a re-introduct i o n to our roots for a crew of friends who in high school made Thursday nights at the Birchmere a regular scene. Those were good shows and deepened all of our musical appreciation greatly. Ah- ho!
The band died with Duffey's passing. And the DC sound died when his former partner Charlie Waller passed as well. Their contribution to blue grass music has never been given the recognition that they deserve. Duffey was the best tenor blue grass ever has seen.
I miss John Duffey. Met the band in Sacramento 20 years ago. My father-in-la w , a good musician, was just through heart surgery. I got back stage and had all the guys sign an album. They were so gracious. But I had to go outside of the building to get John's signature. He was hanging out with the audience just making everybody laugh. What a spirit.
schma8
Beautiful - chills & goosebumps ........ sweet sound....... pure & true........
i grew up exposed to such a broad spectrum of music when i heard the first seldom scene album it blew the doors and windows off any grass i heard before. now, after john duffy, john starling, tom gray, and other members have gone, there is a place to create a newer seldom scene sound, and i will listen for them.
Really like these guys. Dudley Connell is great, but I sure miss John Duffey. Good music.
rmward8
GREAT MUSIC! THESE GUYS REALLY SOUND GREAT TOGETHER. CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THEM AGAIN!
aaaune
Simply the top bluegrass band ever. None sound quite like this one and they had the top voice at one time when John Duffy was still alive.
Seldom Seen Smith Art.. Good man knowing about Ed
artkennedy
"The band derived its name from its once a week performances " - I'll bet "The Monkey Wrench Gang" by Edward Abbey was also part of the inspiration for that name.
alicebjamles s
1977, Loeb Student Center, NYC was my introduction to the Scene. Thank You for a lifetime of music... Just remember somebody in Oklahoma loves you still! Thanx Pandora!
The Seldome Scene did a SUPER show at The Red White and Bluegrass Festival!I LOVED every second of it.
Wow i feel like i grew up with these guys!Seeing them at Birchmere or festivals at VA ,knew the words to every song. I think 1 of the best bands to ever play and Miss John Duffy greatly! His vocals made the band as well as the country Gentelmen!
when i bought this album who knew what memories it would bring back when see the cover or hear the music from way back when. great stuff.
slapshot1894
I've seen these guys many, many times. Each time is always even better than the last. I just don't know how they could be any better!
"THE SELDOME SCENE" IS ONE OF THE BEST GROUPS MAKING MUSIC,ALL VERY TALENTED.GOO D STUFF,THANKS PANDORA
pleasure overload !!!
tonyandmary
brings back memories. most of em bad but thats ok. nice pickin'
amazing forever, as it should be, timeless,etc .
I remember seeing Seldom Scene at the Berkshire Mountain Bluegrass Festival in the mid 80s - good music, good people, good times.
Wow! amazing playing! Great
rmahoney3
What a wonderful group. From the orginial band to the present.

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