A Tribute To Flatt & Scruggs
Not much time passes before there’s a fresh musical salute to one or another of bluegrass’s founding figures. These tributes not only strengthen and reaffirm bluegrass’s crucial links to its past, they also seem to provide a subtle moral compass in terms of reinforcing the music’s integrity with each new generation of musicians.
Along those lines, it’s worth noting that at least one of the Stringdusters has a direct intergenerational connection to Flatt & Scruggs. As a young man, Dobro player Andy Hall played and toured with Earl Scruggs.
As the accompanying media material makes clear, some soul searching went into this heartfelt project—as if you would expect anything less from the Stringdusters, who already have about a dozen albums and a slew of awards (including a Grammy) under their belts. Each bandmember chose a song from Lester’s and Earl’s extensive catalogue with which he felt a personal connection.
Once in the studio, though, spontaneity prevailed. The band laid down these six songs much like Earl and Lester would have back in the day. They circled around one microphone and let it rip.
A shining example of the results is the Stringdusters’ galvanizing version of “Cabin on the Hill” (which came to bass player Travis Book’s attention when he heard guitarist-singer Josh Williams playing it one night in a hotel room during an IBMA conference). The band fully captures the song’s abiding sadness and yearning, as all five Stringdusters harmonize in unison.
There’s similar power and conviction in the Stringdusters’ reprise of Flatt’s & Scruggs’ take on Alton Delmore’s “Will You Be Lonesome Too.” Ditto for “I’d Rather Be Alone,” which was brought to the attention of bass player-vocalist Travis Brook by his close friend Jon Weisberger.
The upbeat “Earl’s Breakdown,” among other exemplary tracks, draws out all the precise, yet relaxed and good-timey vibe that is central Flatt’s and Scruggs’ enduring influence and appeal.