Banjo picking devotees of Earl Scruggs, myself included, generally zero in on the “early years” as examples of his best work. By the time you get to the “folk years” of the 1960’s, the recordings pale when compared to the intensity and drive of the late ’40’s and early ’50’s. So, it was was with this built-in prejudice that I approached Earl Scruggs with Family & Friends, recorded in 2007.
This is a live recording of a concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN, the very same stage where Earl Scruggs first appeared with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys on the Grand Ole Opry in 1945. It is produced by Earl’s sons, Gary and Randy Scruggs, who also perform in the band on bass and guitar. They are joined by John Gardner, drums, Hoot Hester, fiddle, Rob Ickes, dobro, John Jorgenson, mandolin & electric guitar, and John Randall, guitar and vocals. The songs on the CD form a retrospective of material associated with Earl Scruggs, from his years in Flatt & Scruggs to the Earl Scruggs Revue, the group that included sons Gary and Randy. It starts out with Salty Dog Blues from the F&S repertoire, and then shifts to Borrowed Love, written by Dwight Yoakam, Earl Scruggs and Randy Scruggs. Earl’s Breakdown is next, followed by Streamlined Cannonball, and then Bob Dylan’s You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere. There are 18 cuts in all.
“Salty Dog Blues”
Let me say, I like this CD. I can’t say I like it more than my 2 box sets of classic Flatt & Scruggs recordings, but this is a celebration of Earl’s life in the music. On this CD one can hear Earl still being creative and enjoying making music at age 83. He’s playing some of the same songs he recorded many years ago, but he’s doing them slightly differently; still exploring and taking chances. A perfect example is his solo on In The Pines. And he’s surrounded by an excellent cast of musicians. I have to single out Rob Ickes, dobro player for the band Blue Highway. He does a fantastic version of the Josh Graves classic Foggy Mountain Rock.
Earl Scruggs with Family & Friends
The Ultimate Collection: Live at the Ryman<