Toward the end of the Passover Seder, grateful Jews sing “Dayenu”, meaning, “It would have been enough.” If God had just brought them out of Egypt, it would have been enough. But he kept adding miracles onto miracles.
Listening to the Seldom Scene’s newest release, Scenechronized, one is tempted to shout “Dayenu”. In this case, it would have been enough just to hear Dudley Connell (Johnson Mountain Boys) sing Steve Earle’s “Hometown Blues”. Founding member Ben Eldridge’s classic banjo intro to the bluegrass standard “This Morning At Nine” or Lou Reid’s stunning lead vocals would have been enough. So would the band’s signature harmonies, with Fred Travers’ tenor eerily echoing the late John Duffey. But on Scenechronized, we get it all.
Since the band made waves in the D.C. area in the early 1970s, Seldom Scene has been known as much for its song mix as its unique vocal blend, covering everything from Dylan to Clapton. Scenechronized maintains the formula, featuring John Fogerty’s “A Hundred And Ten In The Shade” and Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”. It also includes the requisite schmaltzy Duffey tribute, “Don’t Bother With White Satin”.
With Reid’s superior mandolin playing, Connell’s amazing range and dynamic delivery, and contributions from flatpicker Chris Eldridge (Ben’s son), the Seldom Scene has never been technically better. Scenechronized isn’t earthy bluegrass, but it’s far from easy listening. The technical excellence doesn’t detract from the intensity of the vocals, nor from the band’s commitment to the material, regardless of its origins.