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Randy Scruggs

Crown of Jewels – 1998 (Warner/Reprise)

Reviewed by Rick Teverbaugh

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CDs by Randy Scruggs

It is difficult to tell whether the title of Randy Scruggs' first solo disc bears more witness to the classy collection of artists helping him or the way each song rises up to become its own valuable entity. Either way, Scruggs has fashioned a disc of quality and staying power that flies in the face of what is currently popular on mainstream country radio.

Son of banjo-picking legend Earl Scruggs, he obviously inherited more than merely an ability to play most anything with strings. He also has been infused with a love of music for music's sake, caring little for fad and fashion. Where many outstanding country artists are sticking to traditional values and sound and finding very little airtime, Scruggs has made an acoustic-based disc where the music was chosen to fit best with the song and not vice versa. Right at the start, Scruggs earns points by using Vince Gill as a picker and not a singer on the instrumental "A Soldier's Joy." Then he continues to spread around huge names like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Travis Tritt, Bruce Hornsby, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Joan Osborne, Rosanne Cash, Amy Grant, Matraca Berg, Jeff Hanna, John Hiatt, Prime Time Country's Gary Chapman and, of course, Dad.

But what happens is musical magic rather than an unfocused collection of talent. While Scruggs is a fine player and a better-than-average singer, his true talent this time around is bringing cohesiveness to this.