A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Linton Corbie
For the first time on CD, this re-release of The Seldom Scene's first album for Sugar Hill Records in 1979 should lure countless numbers of new bluegrass listeners into its legion of fans. Long-standing devotees of "The Scene" will be very pleased at the pristine sound achieved by an excellent remastering job. The wonderful vocal harmonies and instrumental virtuosity are striking; seventeen years after its initial issue ACT FOUR remains fresh and contemporary. It is no small wonder that this group, who CASHBOX MAGAZINE once dubbed "America's greatest bluegrass band," continues to be a prime source of inspiration for many of today's up-and-coming bands.
The album includes a mix of traditional as well as original songs including the Scene classic: "Leaving Harlan". The vocal harmonies on "Girl in The Night" by Hank Thompson are simply beautiful. The sensitive and tasteful playing of dobro legend Mike Auldridge abounds on this selection, as it does throughout the album. Tom Gray's bass playing is astounding and betrays his deep fondness for jazz. His virtuosity is amply demonstrated during short solo spots on "California Blues" and his own composition "Walking The Blues".
The rest of the band: John Duffey, Ben Eldridge and Phil Rosenthal on mandolin, banjo and guitar respectively, really contribute to making the Scene one of the tightest bands in the business. These guys are each masters of their instruments with Phil Rosenthal also doing fine work on lead vocals.
A superb balance is struck between instrumental and vocal selections. I prefer the instrumentals though because these fellows are just such exciting musicians. If you love a good old bluegrass jam session, it doesn't get much better than the Scene's take on the old Bill Monroe tune "Tennessee Blues".
This is definitely a great bluegrass album and certainly qualifies as essential listening for any bluegrass listener or musician.