Rafe & Clelia Stefanini
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Rafe & Clelia Stefanini


Band Folk Americana


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"Glory on the Big String"

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 Hermann) is first rate. The addition of ukulele, played by Hermann 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. - Country Standard Time

"Big Hoedown"

Thanks to the availability of recordings, old time music has long since emerged from its place of origin in the Appalachians to be heard and enjoyed by people from such diverse places as California, Italy, and New York. These are the places from which Beverly Smith, Rafe Stefanini, and Bruce Molsky were drawn to the lonesome and vibrant music they perform as part of Big Hoedown.

Molsky is given top billing, the only performer named on the cover. By his detailed liner notes which describe the sources and inspirations for each tune one can infer the commitment and love he has for this music. His desire to share this passion is backed by talent and enthusiasm in performance as well.

The "big hoedown" starts with a rousing version of Sugar Babe. The trio maintains rock solid rhythm , and the vocals have a precision which one usually does not find in the originals on which they model their performances. This is a CD to purchase if you always wanted to know what the words are.

Big Hoedown reminds me of the New Lost City Ramblers at their best. Their attention to detail is achieved a bit at the expense of the spontaneity found on revival CDs by other performers such as Highwoods String Band, though. That's not to say that this is hidebound music. Five Miles Out of Town, for example, is driven by fine lower register fiddle work moving to soaring highs making for lively dance music.

Wagoner's Lad evokes the spirit if not the style of Joan Baez' rendition from "folk boom" times although the timbre of voice which Beverly Smith has is quite different. Smith brings her own personality to this ballad while being sensitive to the sources from which the performance derives.

A highlight for me was John Henry. The fiddle and banjo both move this tune along with vocals modeled after the Camp Creek Boys, not the way this tune is generally available on recordings today. The performance feels new rather than like another version of a warhorse.

Bruce Molsky shines on this recording, usually playing fiddle but occasionally the banjo. Rafe Stefanini more than holds his own on banjo but on Robert's Serenade he proves that not all Italian fiddlers concentrate on Paganini. Beverly Smith's rhythm on guitar holds everything together.

This is an excellent CD to introduce someone to old time music . It will also more than satisfy those long familiar with a musical style too vibrant to be confined to a small regional area. - Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange


Ladies Fancy (2006) ~ COUNTY RECORDS
The Rockinghams ~ YODEL-AY-HEE 050
Bluegrass Meadows ~ 5SP CD03001
Fresh Coat (with Bob Herring) ~ 5SP CDO4001
Old Time Music (with the Wildcats) ~ MARIMAC 9015
On Our Knees (with the Wildcats) ~ YODEL-AY-HEE 005
Old Time Friends (with Ray Alden and others) ~ MARIMAC 9009
5th Annual Galax Fiddlers Convention 1985 ~ HERITAGE 9009
Galax International ~ HERITAGE 067
The Young Fogies ~ HERITAGE 056
Mike Seeger's 3rd Annual Farewell Reunion (with Mike Seeger and others) ~ (1995 Grammy nominee) ~ ROUNDER CD 0313
A Tribute to the Appalachian String Band Music Festival (with The L7s) ~ CHUBBY DRAGON 1001
Old Paint (with Bob Herring) ~ YODEL-AY-HEE 020
Bruce Molsky and Big Hoedown ~ ROUNDER 0421
The Marimac Anthology ~ ROUNDER 0364
Young Fogies Vol. 2 (with The L7s) ~ ROUNDER 0369
Hell and Scissors ~ COUNTY 2728
Red Prairie Dawn (with Garry Harrison & The Mule Team) ~ Garry Harrison
Glory on the Big String ~ COUNTY RECORDS



RAFE STEFANINI needs no introduction to Old Time Music audiences. For almost 30 years his fiddle and banjo playing have delighted people around the world. He has been a member of such influential bands as The Wildcats, Big Hoedown and The Rockinghams. His recorded work spans almost 3 decades and over 20 albums. His solo work of late has also been enthusiastically received by fans in the US and Europe.

CLELIA STEFANINI is following in her father’s footsteps with skills on the fiddle guitar and bass far exceeding her age of 18. Together they present an entertaining show that includes rousing fiddle duets, old time ballads and songs and banjo tunes. Their new CD " Never Seen the Like..." is due out on January 2009.