Rafe Stefanini - Glory on the Big String
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Glory on the Big String (County, 2001)

Rafe Stefanini

Reviewed by Brad San Martin

What's the secret to a making a great, invigorating album of Old Time fiddle music? This genre has been explored endlessly, and yet there seems to be a never-ending well of indistinguishable albums. Why some records stand out and others (most, really) don't is somewhat of a mystery. There are so many superb musicians walking around, but very few can translate themselves to disc without diminishing their impact. Well, fortunately, Rafe Stefanini has cracked the case and made one of the best in recent memory.

It doesn't hurt that Stefanini is a marvelous fiddler.His playing swings, slides, and soars over 22 cuts. He leaves a few edges a little ragged, which only adds to the soulfulness of this session.

As a producer, Stefanini shows remarkable skill in pacing nearly an hour of fiddle music. By varying his accompanists and mining several veins of traditional fiddledom, he keeps the music engaging and surprising. The supporting cast (including Dirk Powell and John Herrmann) is first rate. The addition of ukulele, played by Herrman and Rafe's daughter Clelia, is a particular treat. Here's a great rhythmic instrument that has yet to make much inroads in contemporary Old Time recordings. Entirely instrumental, entirely energized and entirely enjoyable, this is a perfect introduction to old-tyme music at its finest.

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