JOHN DUFFEY'S BLUEGRASS LIFE

FEATURING THE COUNTRY GENTLEMEN, SELDOM SCENE, AND WASHINGTON, D.C.

A truly definitive look at a bluegrass legend and the scene that produced him.

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An exhaustively researched profile of bluegrass legend John Duffey (1934-1996) that covers not only his life in music, but also those of his colleagues and contemporaries.

Duffey was a musician and singer who founded the important bluegrass groups The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene. But even in the late 1950s, when The Country Gentlemen were forming, Duffey felt that the popular bluegrass sound was starting to get stale. When the band started recording in the early ’60s, he pushed them to incorporate more modern sounds to accommodate the folk boom. Purists scoffed, but it allowed the band to play a wider variety of clubs. That’s also when Duffey realized that entertaining a crowd took showmanship as well as musicianship, and he encouraged the band members to do things like play an agonizingly slow version of the usually fast-paced song “Cripple Creek.” Duffey also had some quirks of his own, and the authors collected extensive quotes from his friends and band mates that describe them. The Country Gentlemen were limited by Duffey’s fear of flying and his love of bowling, for example—both of which may have factored into his quitting the band in 1969. That didn’t last long, though, and Duffey pushed the boundaries of bluegrass again with The Seldom Scene in the early ’70s. Moore (co-author: Cerphe’s Up, 2016, etc.) and Keplinger (Film/Stevenson Univ.) also devote considerable time to their subject’s band mates, such as Charlie Waller, Eddie Adcock, and Tom Gray, as well as fringe figures in Duffey’s story, including musician Buzz Busby, photographer Carl Fleischhauer, and bluegrass luminary Ralph Stanley, who respected Duffey’s ability but not his off-the-cuff personal style. It’s obvious from the first chapter of this book that Moore and Keplinger aim to spare no details. They even start with a short history of Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Hospital for Women, where the musician was born, and include a photocopy of the hospital birth certificate. The book is roughly chronological from there, occasionally circling back to offer a different perspective on a particular story or some additional background. As a result, the authors leave very little untouched, right down to what Duffey preferred to eat for breakfast when he was hungry (six eggs, fatback, and buttered toast) and when he wasn’t (four eggs, fatback, and buttered toast). Despite the copious detail, however, the book offers a rich and entertaining musical history of the bluegrass scene as well as more academic materials, including an essay by Robert Kyle on Duffey’s Irish roots and a lengthy discography. Throughout, the authors’ prose is straightforward, but it can be a bit dry, as when they devote a single paragraph to breakthrough surgery that was used to restore Adcock’s playing ability but offer no quotes from the man himself about the experience. Also, when they use Duffey’s own words, they frequently and distractingly italicize them throughout the book rather than more smoothly working them into the text.

A truly definitive look at a bluegrass legend and the scene that produced him.

Pub Date: April 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63263-840-3

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Booklocker.com, Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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TO THE ONE I LOVE THE BEST

EPISODES FROM THE LIFE OF LADY MENDL (ELSIE DE WOLFE)

An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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