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Rafe Stefanini

Hell and Scissors – 1999 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Lawrence Kay

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CDs by Rafe Stefanini

It's difficult to make the case for the all-instrumental bluegrass fiddle album - of course, if you're a virtuoso player, you're going to want to make one, but what will distinguish it from the hundreds that have been made before?

By definition, traditionally-oriented albums are going to sound a lot alike, and more often than not, "experimental" approaches create disastrous results. Song selection could mark out an artist's individual temperament, but let's face it: unless you're already a stringband connoisseur, the nuances between one bow-snapping, toe-tapping breakdown and the next might not be that apparent. But then there's always context.

In the case of Rafe Stefanini, the question is, "can an Italian fiddler really keep up with the hills folks?" Sure he can - and while he sticks to a raspy old-timey sound, Stefanini also slyly weaves in a warm Celtic melodic lead. Nothing to complain about here - just a talented young 'un, playing in old mountain style. (Box 443, Madison, TN 37116)