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Earl Scruggs

The Ultimate Collection/Live at the Ryman – 2008 (Rounder)

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

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CDs by Earl Scruggs

The late Lester Flatt used to say, "Play it, Earl," prior to a solo break when Flatt and Scruggs were performing together. Now well into his 80s, the iconic musician who took the 5-string banjo to new levels, can still 'play it' in a fashion that puts younger pickers to shame. On this 2007 live recording, Scruggs is joined by sons Randy (vocals, guitars) and Gary (vocals and bass), Hoot Hester on fiddle, Rob Ickes on Dobro, John Jorgenson on mando and guitars, Jon Randall on vocals and John Gardner on drums.

It's a wonderful romp through some classic Flatt and Scruggs tunes, including Ballad Of Jed Clampett, Salty Dog Blues and Doin' My Time along with other classic bluegrass tunes like In the Pines, Streamlined Cannonball and some great banjo/fiddle instrumentals, Soldier's Joy and Sally Gooding. Gary Scruggs does most of the lead vocals, including the re-make of the Earl Scruggs Revue classic You Ain't Goin' Nowhere. The signature instrumentals are here too - Foggy Mt Breakdown and Earl's Breakdown, still sounding as good as ever.

Earl Scruggs while most well-known for his banjo work, can still pick a mean guitar, as evidenced by You Are My Flower and (Paul & Silas) Bound In Jail All Night Long.

Scruggs is one of the few remaining first generation bluegrassers left. This is a historic recording at the historic Ryman Auditorium that definitely lives up to its billing.