Brown’s Ferry Blues video from Tony Trischka, with Billy Strings

Banjo master Tony Trischka is marking the 100th anniversary year of Earl Scruggs’ birth with a new album in his honor. Entitled Earl Jam: A Tribute To Earl Scruggs, and expected later this spring from the new Down The Road label, and includes 15 new recordings consisting mostly of songs and tunes that Scruggs never commercially recorded.

These cuts are based on a collection of live jam tapes that Tony received of the legendary jams at Earl’s house with John Hartford, recorded mostly in the 1980s and ’90s. It was always a great honor to be invited to one of these occasions, where all sorts of songs were called and played.

So much of Trischka’s COVID shutdown hours were dedicated to the study of these some 200 pieces, learning and transcribing this new-to-him music from the man who had inspired him to take up the five string in the 1960s. When live performances returned after the lockdowns, he took the concept of playing these songs to Joe’s Pub in New York City, and when a recording from a show there reached Down The Road’s Ken Irwin, the idea for this album was born.

A first look at Earl Jam is available now in a music video from Parlor Studios in Nashville of Tony playing Brown’s Ferry Blues, with Billy Strings on guitar and vocal, Sam Bush on mandolin, and Mark Schatz on bass. Béla Fleck, who produced this song, even gets a bite at this one, unburdened by any attempt to channel Scruggs.

Trischka explained a bit about this Delmore Brothers classic, and how he approached the session.

“This song was written by Alton and Rabon Delmore and recorded by them in 1933. I heard Earl play it backstage at a show in Missouri in 2010. He had his banjo tuned to double C—that’s g, C, G, C, D—and as far as I know, he’d never used this tuning on a studio or live recording. In the various jams with John Hartford that inspired this album, however, he always played it in standard G tuning, which is the setting you’ll hear here.”

Have a look and listen..

Brown’s Ferry Blues is available now as a single from popular download and streaming services online. Pre-orders for Earl Jam are likewise enabled online.

Trischka is in the midst of a brief tour along the east coast previewing music from the new album, followed by performances at Wintergrass next month, and at the Savannah Music Festival in April.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.