The Essential Earl Scruggs

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David McGee
For an artist with as long and storied a recording career as Earl Scruggs, a two-disc Essential set seems a bit slight. But, in fact, this collection is a tasty, 40-cut overview that captures the variety of this towering banjo man's contributions to contemporary country and popular music. Disc 1 breaks down into selections from the '40s and '50s, when Scruggs was pointing the way toward the future, first as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys a period represented here by three cuts from 1946-47, then in his scintillating partnership with guitarist/vocalist Lester Flatt and their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys. This latter incarnation is well documented, with ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David McGee
For an artist with as long and storied a recording career as Earl Scruggs, a two-disc Essential set seems a bit slight. But, in fact, this collection is a tasty, 40-cut overview that captures the variety of this towering banjo man's contributions to contemporary country and popular music. Disc 1 breaks down into selections from the '40s and '50s, when Scruggs was pointing the way toward the future, first as a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys a period represented here by three cuts from 1946-47, then in his scintillating partnership with guitarist/vocalist Lester Flatt and their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys. This latter incarnation is well documented, with monuments on the order of 1949's "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"; another awesome breakdown from 1959, "Pike Mountain Breakdown"; the irresistible "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms"; a touching rendition of A. P. Carter's "Jimmie Brown, The Newsboy"; and the incendiary instrumental blowout, 1950's "Shuckin' the Corn," on which Scruggs and his mates' speed-picking dexterity remains jaw dropping. Disc 2 surveys the '60s and '70s and features ample samplings of the groundbreaking work Scruggs did with his sons Randy and Gary in the Earl Scruggs Review, as well as choice pairings with artists such as Mother Maybelle Carter, on a mesmerizing version of A.P.'s "Foggy Mountain Top," and Ricky Skaggs, on a heartfelt reading of "We'll Meet Again," one of a handful of '80s tracks here. Yes, the studio version of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" is included it's slower than the TV theme song, for those to whom such distinctions matter, and Johnny Cash joins Earl, Randy, and Gary for a rustic take on his beautiful "I Still Miss Someone," from 1975. Music this deep and soulful never grows old.
All Music Guide - Zac Johnson
"The Paganini of the banjo"'s finest moments are collected on Columbia/Legacy's aptly named Essential Earl Scruggs. Unlike many other "best-of" collections, this two-disc set gathers tracks from nearly all of the stages of Scruggs' career, from his early days as one of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, through his genre-defining work with Lester Flatt, and a sampling of his solo career, including his appearances with Hylo Brown, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and leading his own Earl Scruggs Revue. Informative liner notes by historian Rich Kienzle, banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, and Scruggs himself illustrate the man behind the fingers, and the recording quality of the music is clear and consistent throughout. Hearing all of this pickin' in one place really reminds the listener how vital Scruggs was in popularizing the sound of bluegrass in the '40s, '50s, and '60s, and his innovations through the '70s and '80s. While stronger collections of Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe recordings are available, none showcase the man behind the banjo as completely as this fine compilation does.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/2/2004
  • Label: Sony
  • UPC: 827969085820
  • Catalog Number: 90858
  • Sales rank: 5,715


Disc 1
  1. 1 Heavy Traffic Ahead (2:52)
  2. 2 It's Mighty Dark to Travel - Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys (2:53)
  3. 3 Molly and Tenbrooks (The Race Horse Song) - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:45)
  4. 4 Down the Road - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:40)
  5. 5 Foggy Mountain Breakdown - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:40)
  6. 6 Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:38)
  7. 7 Old Salty Dog Blues - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:29)
  8. 8 Pike Country Breakdown - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:44)
  9. 9 Come Back Darling - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:41)
  10. 10 Don't Get Above Your Raising - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:44)
  11. 11 Jimmie Brown, The Newsboy - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:44)
  12. 12 Earl's Breakdown - Foggy Mountain Boys (3:01)
  13. 13 Get in Line Brother - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:23)
  14. 14 Dear Old Dixie - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:31)
  15. 15 Flint Hill Special - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:45)
  16. 16 Foggy Mountain Chimes - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:16)
  17. 17 Till the End of the World Rolls Round - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:34)
  18. 18 Foggy Mountain Special - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:02)
  19. 19 Randy Lynn Rag - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:04)
  20. 20 Shuckin' the Corn - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:02)
Disc 2
  1. 1 John Henry - The Timberliners (2:54)
  2. 2 Cumberland Gap - The Timberliners (1:33)
  3. 3 Cripple Creek - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:06)
  4. 4 Reuben - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:01)
  5. 5 Sally Goodwin - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:11)
  6. 6 Foggy Mountain Top - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:26)
  7. 7 Georgia Buck - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:52)
  8. 8 John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:15)
  9. 9 The Ballad of Jed Clampett - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:04)
  10. 10 Nashville Skyline Rag - Foggy Mountain Boys (2:47)
  11. 11 Nashville Blues (3:11)
  12. 12 I Saw the Light (3:44)
  13. 13 Some of Shelley's Blues (2:58)
  14. 14 Peking Fling (2:13)
  15. 15 I Shall Be Released (3:50)
  16. 16 Stash It (2:14)
  17. 17 Song of the South (2:51)
  18. 18 I Still Miss Someone (3:28)
  19. 19 We'll Meet Again Sweetheart (3:13)
  20. 20 American-Made World-Played (2:42)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Earl Scruggs Primary Artist, Banjo, Baritone (Vocal)
Norman Blake Dobro
Lester Flatt Guitar, Vocals
Josh Graves Dobro, Guitar
Bill Monroe Mandolin, Vocals, Tenor (Vocal)
Johnny Cash Guitar, Vocals
Rosanne Cash Background Vocals
Rodney Crowell Background Vocals
Tom T. Hall Vocals
Benny Martin Fiddle
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Vocals
The Oak Ridge Boys Background Vocals
Paul Warren Fiddle
Doc Watson Guitar
Linda Ronstadt Vocals
Bonnie Bramlett Background Vocals
Grady Martin Guitar
Chubby Wise Fiddle
Hylo Brown Guitar, Vocals
John McEuen Banjo
Mother Maybelle Carter Autoharp
Byron Berline Fiddle, Background Vocals
Ron Bledsoe Organ, Harpsichord
Clyde Brooks Drums
Kenny Buttrey Drums
Jerry Carrigan Drums
Charlie Daniels 12-string Guitar
Chip Young Rhythm Guitar
Vassar Clements Fiddle
Shane Keister Keyboards
Bobby Dyson Bass
Jimmie Fadden Harp
Jeff Hanna Washboard
Buddy Harman Drums
Bobby Hicks Fiddle
Karl Himmel Drums
Teddy Irwin Rhythm Guitar
Jerry Kroon Drums
Everett Lilly Mandolin
Ralph Mooney Steel Guitar
Farrell Morris Percussion
Mark O'Connor Fiddle, Guitar, Mandolin
Ron Oates Keyboards
Gary Scruggs Bass, Harmonica, Electric Bass, Vocals
Randy Scruggs Acoustic Guitar, Guitar, Electric Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Background Vocals, 12-string Guitar
Steve Scruggs Keyboards
Curly Seckler Mandolin, Tenor (Vocal)
Gene Sisk Piano
Henry Strzelecki Bass
Clarence "Tater" Tate Fiddle
Paul Uhrig Bass
Howard Watts String Bass
Charlie McCoy Harmonica
Bob Moore Bass, String Bass
Jack Shook Rhythm Guitar
Art Wooten Fiddle
Red Rector Mandolin
Joe & Rose Lee Maphis Drums, Background Vocals
Louis Innis Rhythm Guitar
Jake Tullock String Bass
Jody Rainwater String Bass
William Paul Ackerman Drums
Johnny Lee "Jaimoe" Johnson Rhythm Guitar
Bob & Pauline Wilson Piano
Stacey Belson Vocals
Arloff Boguslavaki Vocals
Howdy Foster Fiddle
Junior Husky Bass
Technical Credits
Lester Flatt Composer
Bill Monroe Composer
Earl Scruggs Arranger, Composer
Johnny Cash Composer
Bob Dylan Composer
Michael Nesmith Composer
Charlie Monroe Composer
Art Satherley Producer
Ron Bledsoe Producer
A.P. Carter Composer
Béla Fleck Liner Notes
Buck Graves Composer
Bob Johnston Producer
Frank Jones Producer
Don Law Producer
Bob McDill Composer
William McEuen Producer
Murray Nash Producer
Hank Williams Composer
Rich Kienzle Liner Notes
Wiley Morris Composer
Zeke Morris Composer
Norman Seeff Cover Photo
Howard Fritzson Art Direction
Vic Anesini Mastering
Gladys Stacey Composer
Roy Cash Composer
Louise Certain Composer
John Thompson Producer
Traditional Composer
Mark Unterberger Packaging Manager
Paul Henning Composer
Ron Beldsoe Producer
Robert Radnitz Producer
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Where would the music be without Earl?

    Orignally from North Carolina, Earl Eugene Scruggs is an indisputable master of the three-finger style of bluegrass banjo playing. By age 15, he was playing pro with Zeke and Wiley Morris (The Morris Brothers). He joined Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in 1945, then formed Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1948 .In 1969, Scruggs parted company with Flatt to form a country rock band, The Earl Scruggs Revue, with his sons, Gary, Randy and Steve. That group disbanded a decade later. In 1992, President Bush presented Earl with a National Medal of Artistic Achievement. The year 1997 saw him back on stage at the IBMA Awards Show, Grand Ole Opry, and various festivals. John Hartford once asked and opined, “Who was the first threefinger style banjo picker? It doesn’t really matter, because without Earl no one would be asking that question.” In Twentieth Century America, the terms “Banjo” and “Scruggs” are nearly synonymous. Once can barely speak of one without mention of the other. That is why I was particularly excited to hear about Columbia/Legacy’s release of the double-CD “Essential Earl Scruggs,” in early 2003 to coincide with Scruggs’ 80th birthday. Spanning the seminal picker’s career, the 40 tracks from 1946 to 1984 give us a good overview of his music. Only three tracks (Heavy Traffic Ahead, It’s Mighty Dark to Travel, Molly and Tenbrooks) emanate from Scruggs’ involvement with Bill Monroe in the late-40s, and this cursory treatment is unfortunate. The great majority (about 26 tracks) document the great collaboration of Earl Scruggs with Lester Flatt. I’m not certain how many of the tracks here overlap with another 2-CD set, “The Essential Flatt & Scruggs.” I recently learned on the BGRASS-L listserv that Flatt & Scruggs had 20 entries on the Billboard chart between 1952 and 1968, with 15 of them reaching the Top 40. One could certainly argue that all twenty are essential listening. So where are the likes of charting tracks like Legend of the Johnson Boys, New York Town, My Saro Jane, California Uptight Band, and Like A Rolling Stone? Certainly, a song’s charting success may not be a good measure of its essentialness today. Songs like Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms, Salty Dog, Jimmie Brown the Newsboy, Get in Line Brother, and most of Scruggs’ great instrumentals are a basic, indispensable foundation of the bluegrass repertoire. Be sure to tune into Scurggs’ lead guitar work on Jimmie Brown. The cornerstone of bluegrass is well represented here. Of special note are “John Henry” and “Cumberland Gap,” recorded live in 1959 at the Newport Folk Festival with Hylo Brown and the Timberliners, and the 1961 cut of “Foggy Mountain Top” with Mother Maybelle Carter. Johnny Cash appears in the 1975 recording of “I Still Miss Someone,” and Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas and Bobby Hicks make the 1982 rendition of “We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart” quite special. The pioneer banjoplayer’s contributions to Earl Scruggs Revue is documented in four tracks. “Nashville Blues,” recorded in 1971 with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, was originally released on the seminal “Will the Circle be Unbroken” album. Scruggs’ 1982 collaboration with Tom T. Hall is captured with “Song of the South.” Rich Kienzle’s liner notes document the musical innovator’s life. Bela Fleck adds a page of insight also. Earl had hip replacement surgery and suffered a heart attack requiring bypass surgery in October, 1996. It’s very gratifying to read Earl’s own extensive liner notes in which he concludes, “After eighty years, I am thankful that I am able to go out on the road and enjoy working concerts with more enthusiasm than ever.” Every bluegrasser today sh

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