Scene from Afar

Maybe it tells you what you need to know when along with guest artists listed in the liner notes are the noted and vintage instruments used to make the music on the album. That’s what you get with this CD re-issue of the 1987 vinyl release from Ed Schaeffer & Rattlesnake Hill titled Scene from Afar.

Schaeffer is a longtime veteran of the Washington, D.C. bluegrass scene, having moved there from Pennsylvania more than 30 years ago. The area’s “sound” is clear on this effort and along with Schaeffer are the recognizable names of his bandmates: Ben Eldridge (banjo), Lou Reid (harmony), Fred Travers (dobro), Carl Nelson (fiddle) and Wille Oldes (bass).

Seven of the 10 tunes were written by Schaeffer and there are three instrumentals to round things out. That old school sound is in part to the “guests” of a 1931 Gibson RB-3 banjo, a 1976 Martin D-76, a 1924 Gibson Lloyd Loar mandolin, and an early 1930s Dobro.

Schaeffer, who plays in two other groups — All Mixed Up and the Cajun group Cypress Trio — goes after an older sound from decades ago. While the vocals are distinctive from top to bottom, the picking of all these seasoned players is hard to miss for its deepness. The instrumental numbers “Banjo Whip” and “Rock Creek Ramble” make it hard to sit still while listening.  

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