Earl Scruggs on December 31, 1969
There's always been a certain forward-looking, open-minded quality about the music of Earl Scruggs. He forever changed the direction of bluegrass music in 1945 when his three-finger banjo roll came to the attention of Bill Monroe. And his accomplishments in the past six decades would rival those of anyone performing today. But, for all the attention rightly lavished on Scruggs as a pioneer and a performer, he seems to be happiest as an ensemble player, with arms and ears always open to new artists, new sounds. This live disc, recorded in June 2007, is a wonderful testament to that collaborative spirit. At 83, Scruggs doesn't quite dazzle like he did a generation ago. Or maybe he just dazzles in a different way. Regardless, the success of this project doesn't ride solely on his talents. Randy Scruggs trades hot acoustic guitar licks with Jon Randall; Rob Ickes' dobro playing is clean as ever; Hoot Hester swings on fiddle; and John Jorgenson can barely contain himself on mandolin, electric guitar, and clarinet. Gary Scruggs and John Gardner hold down the bottom end on bass and percussion. Earl's sons have been on board since the Earl Scruggs Revue began performing in 1969. And, as with the Revue, the material here is wide-ranging. Bluegrass standards, Carter Family songs, a Dylan tune, and a Dwight Yoakam co-write sit comfortably alongside Scruggs' own compositions. Standout tracks include "Step It Up And Go", "Lonesome Ruben", "Foggy Mountain Rock", Roy Acuff's "Streamlined Cannonball", and, yes, the ubiquitous "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". Not at the Ryman and with a few different Friends, but worth seeing...