Our friends from the Earl Scruggs Center have curated a thoughtful playlist that’s built around our 2022 Festival Lineup and some of the artist’s connections with Earl Scruggs and his legacy. Below is a little more detail behind the selections. We hope you enjoy!
We’re honored to be able to celebrate the Scruggs legacy with artists and fans alike September 2-4 in the foothills of his childhood home. We hope to see you there.
Five Alive – Leftover Salmon
This song was part of Leftover Salmon’s Nashville Sessions album, which has a concept like the “Circle” album and features a variety of musicians and friends of the band. This song features Earl Scruggs on banjo and Randy Scruggs, who also produced the album.
Reuben’s Train – Leftover Salmon
The basic version of this song, famous for being the song that Earl was playing when he discovered he could play the banjo in a 3-finger style, has been recorded a million times by a million different artists. Most likely derived from an older folk song, there are many versions of Reuben’s Train, as well as more songs based on the tune of this song (like “Ruby” by the Osborne Brothers), but we really like Leftover Salmon’s fun take on it.
Girl’s Breakdown – Alison Brown
Like Earl, Alison Brown is a banjo pioneer and a remarkable person. This song appeared on one of her early albums and the title is a play on the title of Earl’s song “Earl’s Breakdown.” She has more performed, and perhaps recorded, this song with the First Ladies of Bluegrass.
You are My Flower – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Earl’s presence is all over the original “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” Album and he was instrumental in assembling the all star cast of guest musicians. But, we especially like this one because it features his beautiful and distinct style of playing the guitar, as well as the incredible guitar of Randy Scruggs. Gary Scruggs provides the lead vocals at the beginning of the song.
Randy Lynn Rag – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Gary Scruggs told us that when the NGDB’s album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy came out, he purchased a copy and introduced Louise and Earl to the music. Earl especially liked their version of Randy Lynn Rag, a song that he’d written for his son, Randy Lynn Scruggs. Earl later met the NGDB guys and the rest is history.
Powderfinger – Acoustic Syndicate
Acoustic Syndicate is from Cleveland County, NC, the birthplace of Earl Scruggs, and were no doubt influenced by Earl and the many incredible musicians who also originate in this area. They’re one of our very favorite bands, fantastic musicians and good people, and we love their take on Neil Young’s song, Powderfinger. Drummer Fitz McMurry once told us of the surreal moment when he was singing this song at a festival, Farm Aid, maybe, and looked over to see Neil Young watching – whoa. So, to draw a very loose connection to Earl, the Earl Scruggs Center’s collection has one of Earl’s peace dove banjo straps that he rocked in the early 70s while playing with the Earl Scruggs Revue. This style of strap became more popular a few years later because Neil Young wore one, but Earl made it cool first.
Little Cabin Home on a Hill – Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley
We love that Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley are playing the inaugural festival because they both have strong, personal connections with Earl and the Scruggs family. Rob played with Earl, Gary and Randy on some of Earl’s final tours, including a show in Shelby, NC in support of the Earl Scruggs Center. Trey played Jimmie Brown the Newsboy with Marty Stuart and Earl at a young age on the Grand Ole Opry and Gary once told me how much he thought of Trey’s musicianship. We really like their version of Little Cabin Home on a Hill, a song that Flatt and Scruggs recorded in the 50s.
I Found Love – Darin and Brooke Aldridge
We love that Darin and Brooke, who live nearby and frequent the ESC, paid tribute to Earl and included this song on their album Inner Journey. Some of us were also fortunate to watch them film it onsite for an episode of David Holt’s State of Music back in 2019. Earl, Randy Scruggs, and Vince Gill wrote this song, and it was recorded on Earl’s Earl Scruggs and Friendsalbum, with Vince Gill and Roseanne Cash singing the duet. Darin and Brooke’s duet is just as good, if not better. She is a 4-time IBMA female vocalist of the year!
Boulderdash – Bela Fleck
This song from Bela’s Grammy-winning My Bluegrass Heart project is one of our favorites on the album, probably because it features a trio of banjo greats – Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, and Noam Pikelny- all of whom point to Earl as a major influence on their music.
Earls of Leicester
We couldn’t have an inaugural Earl Scruggs Music Festival without Jerry Douglas and these guys. Pick any of the Earls’ songs and you can draw a direct line to Earl Scruggs. As far as playing the banjo goes, there’s no one who can quite play like Earl, but Charlie Cushman is as close as it gets. It’s so hard to pick favorites, but we put a few of ours on this playlist. We love Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues because it goes all the way back to Charlie Poole, a rough and rowdy NC banjo player whose style had an influence on Earl. And Shawn Camp’s vocals on Big Black Train and really anything else… good lord… we’re going to put it on repeat.
Good Things Outweigh the Bad – Chatham Rabbits
We heard the Chatham Rabbits perform this Flatt and Scruggs song at the Earl Scruggs Center several years ago and have been in love with it, and them, since. It has such a good message and Sarah McCombie’s voice puts all the feeling in it for me.
Thanks for listening!