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Various Artists

Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey – 2018 (Smithsonian Folkways)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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Not many folks are twice members of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame: John Duffey is. A legend in mandolin musicianship and lead and harmony singing, a gregarious stage personality and master of repartee and fashion sense (okay, perhaps not the latter: many remain scarred from the early '90s animal print pants), Duffey's contributions to bluegrass music over 40 years, as a member of both the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene, are epic and tales of his exploits will be told long after his generation has departed.

"Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey" is a lovingly assembled testament to the status Duffey, who died in 1996 at 62, attained and the influence he continues to impart upon bluegrass music. Compiled from numerous recording sessions over almost 20 years, it also serves as acknowledgment to the devotion of its producers, Bluegrass 45s' Akira Otsuka and Ronnie Freeman. Despite being assembled track-by-track, including 53 musicians and singers making contributions in a variety of makeshift studio settings, the 46-minute, 17-song set is remarkably coherent, bound as it is by the tensile strength of the bluegrass community.

As did Duffey's music, elements of folk and country are contained within the bluegrass of "Epilogue," which takes its songs from across the expanse of Duffey's recordings. A treat for aficionados, his Gibson F-12 mandolin is played throughout. Contemporaries of Duffey as well as those who felt his impressive sway contribute to this extraordinary album.

Members of various editions of the Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene make appearances, including Mike Auldridge, as well as Dudley Connell, Fred Travers (whose "Reason For Believing" - with Ronnie Bowman and David Parmley - is one of the album's vocal showcases), John Starling (who delivers a wistful "Bringing Mary Home," incorporating signature Duffey vocal adornments) , Tom Gray (also a two-time IBMA Hall member), Eddie Adcock, Phil Rosenthal, Ben Eldridge, Lou Reid, Ronnie Simpkins, Ron Stewart, Jerry Douglas, Jimmy Gaudreau, Bill Emerson and Randy Waller.

Among the noteworthy making more than one appearance are Parmley, Kenny Smith, Don Rigsby, Adam Steffey, Jason Moore, Béla Fleck, Wayne Benson, Sammy Shelor and Wyatt Rice. Tony Rice, David Grisman, Nils Lofgren of Springsteen's E Street Band, Sam Bush and Tim O'Brien also are present. Amanda Smith (presenting a gentle and vulnerable "If That's The Way You Feel"), James King (a stellar rendition of "Going to the Races" featuring Stewart on banjo), Steve Gulley ("Girl From the North Country," joined by Rigsby and Parmley on harmony creating a stout trio) and John Cowan (typically powerful on "Some Old Day") are among the many featured lead singers.

With essential song notes by Jeff Place and including several photos and informative essays from Connell, Otsuka, and Katy Daley, "Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey" is a reflection of bluegrass music's recent past and rich history.