Flatt & Scruggs

Best of the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show, Vol. 1 &2 DVD – 2007 (Shanachie)

Reviewed by Ken Burke

Culled from shows first broadcast in 1961 and 1962, the kinescopes collected on these 2 DVDs may seem grainy, but Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and their Foggy Mountain Boys at are showcased at their lively best. No production frills (the sets seem to be made out of painted cardboard), their regional TV show concentrated on great bluegrass music by the genre's best all-around band.

The sound quality is surprisingly good as the band burns through spirited renditions of "Fireball Mail," "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Hot-stepping rhythm may have been Flatt & Scruggs's claim to fame, but they also were masters at provoking tears with ballads a la "Have You Come to Say Goodbye" and "I Dreamed About Mama Last Night" or emoting scared numbers like ""Jesus Savior Pilot Me" and "Are You Washed in the Blood."

Flatt is folksy and earnest, and every band member gets his turn in the spotlight, but as most bluegrass fans will attest, Scruggs is the star here. Utilizing the classic overdrive style, his banjo playing spits sparks as he careens through "Earl Breakdown," "Polka on a Banjo" and "Durham's Bull." Amazingly, Scruggs was every bit as good on guitar as banjo. Historically important and remarkably entertaining, these discs are essential viewing.