Home Read Classic Album Review: Earl Scruggs | Earl Scruggs and Friends

Classic Album Review: Earl Scruggs | Earl Scruggs and Friends

The bluegrass pioneer deserves better than this ill-conceived, star-studded tribute.

This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Earl Scruggs didn’t invent the banjo, but he might as well have.

A bluegrass pioneer who literally changed the way the instrument was played and perceived, Scruggs cut his teeth playing with the legendary Bill Monroe, then went on to form a long-running partnership with guitarist Lester Flatt. Along the way, he wrote and recorded innumerable familiar tunes, from Foggy Mountain Breakdown to the Beverly Hillbillies Theme. So what the hell is this venerated musical legend doing picking away behind the likes of Elton John, Sting, Don Henley, Melissa Etheridge and (heaven help us all) Billy Bob Thornton on this ill-conceived tribute disc? With many of them playing their own songs, no less? Granted, some of the other guests — Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, sons Gary and Randy Scruggs — provide more suitable accompaniment for the 77-year-old Earl’s still sharp and seemingly effortless playing. But really, the old guy deserves better.