Less than seven years separates Scruggs' classic original of Flint Hill Special and the spirited reinterpretation he delivered at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival. That latter version, recorded with Hylo Brown & the Timberliners, is one of eight tracks by this pick-up aggregation and offers a fascinating insight into Scruggs' work outside the Foggy Mountain Boys. By 1959, Earl Scruggs was already a banjo superstar, a key cornerstone founder in bluegrass music and a cult figure of the emerging 'folk' scene. Invited to the Newport Folk Festival without Lester Flatt or the duo's band the Foggy Mountain Boys, Scruggs was paired with Brown's Timberliners, who rose to the occasion of playing in such illustrious company. Two previously unreleased songs Girl In The Blue Velvet Band and Love And Wealth are added bonuses.
The remaining ten sides are a showcase for Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs with the Foggy Mountain Boys. Recorded at the Newport Folk Festivals of 1960 and 1966, they include renditions of Orange Blossom Special, Ballad Of Jed Clampett (their hit theme music from the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies), Salty Dog Blues, Jimmy Brown The Newsboy and the instrumental Foggy Mountain Chimes.
Not all of the Newport recordings made during the 50s and early 60s successfully capture the excitement of the day: sometimes the recording equipment and makeshift nature of the performance merely documents the moment. With this Earl Scruggs album, however, all the verve, style, class and drive of the banjo master is fully captured.
By John Crosby