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John Duffey

The Rebel Years: 1962-1977 – 2011 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by John Duffey

Amidst the many offerings coming from the Rebel Records archives of late comes this pleasing package highlighting the formidable voice of John Duffey, founding member of both The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene. Within this album's 16-page booklet, Duffey is referred to as a bluegrass revolutionary. His family's experiences as well as his education, interests and demeanor made him an unlikely bluegrass legend - at least within the context of 1957 when The Country Gentlemen got their start - but history has proven that he - and his bands- triggered significant shifts within the music and industry.

Similar to Sugar Hill's Seldom Scene-focused 2000 set "Always In Style," "The Rebel Years: 1962-1977" compiles several noteworthy Rebel songs featuring Duffey's signature lead tenor. Unlike the previous, Seldom Scene-heavy collection, 10 of these tracks feature the Gents while only 5 come from The Seldom Scene.

The earliest recording included here emanates from The Country Gentlemen's first Rebel session in November 1962; this rendition of Silence or Tears features Kenny Haddock on Dobro and serves as one of the album's highpoints. Perhaps the most pitiful ballads within the bluegrass canon, The School House Fire (from a 1963 Mercury session) makes its Rebel debut; originally released on the Gents' "Folk Session Inside" album, the song serves as one of several linking the folk and bluegrass worlds that the Gents seemed to desire bridging.

Each and every song is a triumph in performance, with spirited and experimental instrumentation, glorious harmonies, and Duffey's impressive and seemingly effortless lead vocals.

A graphic faux-pas minimally mars the readability of Geoffrey Himes' extensive notes summarizing the Duffey story, but the background provided and the information about the songs included are of interest and value. "The Rebel Years: 1962-1977" serves as a concise and enjoyable introduction to the legacy and art of John Duffey.