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Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs

Foggy Mountain Jamboree – 2005 (Columbia)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs

After leaving Bill Monroe to form their own legendary band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, Tennessee native Lester Flatt and North Carolina-born Earl Scruggs signed on with Columbia, a relationship that would last some 20 years and which Scruggs would continue on his own.

Along the way, they would join their former boss Monroe (to his dismay at the time) as Opry favorites, and in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their debut at the Ryman, Columbia has cracked open their vaults for these 3 retrospectives, 81 tracks in all, of iconic and quintessentially American music.

In an era when singles - 78 and 45 rpm - were still the recording standard, the early 1950s was a time when Flatt and Scruggs were reliable top-sellers, but it wasn't until the latter part of the decade and the onset of hi-fi systems and the 33 1/3 rpm long-playing record ("LP") that the notion of an "album" began to gain currency.

The concept of a "greatest hits" album was still years in the future, but the 1957 release of "Foggy Mountain Jamboree" was essentially just that. Although some new material was included, it was mainly assembled from (now historic) singles like "Flint Hill Special," "Your Love Is Like A Flower," "Jimmie Brown, The Newsboy" and "Blue Ridge Cabin Home."

"Foggy Mountain Jamboree" is, literally, the first F & S "album" and worth having solely on that account, the inspiration for a generation of pickers and singers. What particularly stands out, though, is the technical excellence of these recordings. If you've only heard these as scratchy records, it will be startling to hear how cleanly and clearly their engineer Don Law captured these performances more than a half-century ago.