Earl Scruggs – Live At The Ryman

Earl Scruggs - Live At The RymanRounder has shipped the CD version of Earl Scruggs with Family & Friends, The Ultimate Collection – Live at the Ryman, first released digitally on September 30 of this year.

It features Scruggs with his sons Gary on bass/vocals and Randy on guitar, along with Rob Ickes on resonator guitar, Hoot Hester on fiddle, John Jorgenson on mandolin, Jon Randall on guitar and vocals, and John Gardner on percussion.

The material and presentation rely more on the sound of the Earl Scruggs Revue, the folk-rock group featuring Earl, Gary and Randy that performed and recorded in the 1970s, than it does the classic Flatt & Scruggs repertoire. Even Scruggs banjo gems like Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Earl’s Breakdown, Sally Gooding and Soldier’s Joy get a more modern treatment than Lester & Earl ever gave them.

But, as Earl himself might remark, Flatt & Scruggs are past and gone, and what we get here is a current look at one of the few musicians who can lay claim to having truly revolutionized the way an instrument is perceived by both the general public and fellow musicains alike.

Let’s get the first, and most obvious qualification out of the way.

No… Earl doesn’t sound just like he did in the 1950s. He was 83 years old when this recording was made in the summer of 2007, and it doesn’t take a physician to describe the loss of dexterity endemic to such an advanced age. It’s still a joy to hear him play, however, and the live audience at The Ryman in Nashville certainly ate it up.

The show has a jam-like vibe and the performers are obviously enjoying their moment on stage with a legend. Jon Randall stands out singing In The Pines and Sitting On Top Of The World, reminding us of what a shame it is that he has never found wider success in country or acoustic music. Rob Ickes shines throughout – as he always does – and it’s a real treat to catch him throwing down some Josh Graves licks on Foggy Mountain Rock. Hoot Hester tears up Sally Gooding, starting off as a banjo/fiddle duet just like Earl did it in the old days.

The CD booklet features a number of photos from the concert and extensive biographical notes from Jay Orr of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Eddie Strubbs of WSM and The Grand Ole Opry.

There are no audio samples on the Rounder site, but you can hear clips from all 18 tracks in iTunes.

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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.