The title of this postmortem retrospective is an affectionate gag; John Duffey
, with his never-changing crewcut, his Hawaiian shirts, and his polyester pants, was rarely if ever in style. He had, in the words of one critic, "the voice of an angel trapped in the body of a professional bowler." But his work as a founding member of the Country Gentlemen
and leader of the Seldom Scene
helped both to define and, ultimately, to bring to maturity the entire "progressive" subgenre of bluegrass music. The 21 tracks collected here come from the latter part of his career, a period that stretches from the early '80s to just before his untimely death in 1996. The majority of them are from Seldom Scene albums, but two of the strongest performances come from a reunion album by the classic Charlie Waller
lineup of the Country Gentlemen
; the Scene were always vocally impressive, but there's a special magic to the combination of Waller's unusually rich lead and Duffey
's soaring tenor, and it's hardly diminished in the years between the original recordings of "Here Today and Gone Tomorrow" and "Say Won't You Be Mine" and their encore performances here. Highlights from the Seldom Scene catalog include their Kennedy Center performance of "Rose of Old Kentucky," their great adaptation of "After Midnight," and the sweetly melancholy "Life Is Like a Mountain Railway" (which was slightly scandalous at the time in its use of pedal steel guitar). It's too bad Sugar Hill couldn't have licensed some of Duffey
's earlier Rebel recordings for this collection, but it should still be considered a must for any fan of modern bluegrass.