His Family & Friends / Nashville Airplane
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EARL SCRUGGS: HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS (a solo shot, not a Flatt and Scruggs album as suggested by the Collectibles label, which did the reissue) is taken from a 1970 PBS (then NET) documentary on Scruggs. The soundtrack is excellent, combining live tracks, back-porch guitar (and banjo) pulls and commentary by Scruggs. Highlights: An early melding of bluegrass and an incredible new musical gizmo called a synthesizer; guest shots by the Byrds, Joan Baez, Doc Watson and the Morris Brothers (Dylan's here too but his instrumental track is unremarkable); and a snippet from a performance during the Vietnam War Moratorium protest in Washington. This forgotten gems ranks as one of the best folk/bluegrass albums ever made.
Flatt & Scruggs' NASHVILLE AIRLINE is a bona-fide bizarro disc, born of Scruggs' growing interest in folk and pop music (culminating in the formation of the Earl Scruggs Revue in the early 1970s). F&S perform a variety of ill-suited pop and protest songs. Flatt's deadpan vocals on Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women" (everybody must get stoned) or Donavan's hippie anthem "Catch the Wind" makes you wonder if he realized what the words meant. I picture him putting up with this left-of-center material just to keep ol' Earl happy. "But, Earl, I don't get why everyone must have stones thrown at them." Not F&S's finest moment, but the combination of '60s kitsch and hot picking is worth the price of admission.
My hunch: These weren't big-sellers when they were released, and they won't stay in print long. Get 'em while you can.
Earl had many guests on this, his first solo effort. The line up is impressive: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Doc Watson, The Byrds... all these people/groups show up here to lend their talents, showing how much each one respected Scruggs. That stands as testimonial to the influence this great musician/pioneer had and continues to have to this day. (Need further proof? Check out last year's Earl Scruggs and Friends).
Now for the F&S album: This is the "Hippy years" when Earl was into Dylan, Donovan and others of that "folk rock" era.
Now, while I'm sure the died-in-the-wool Bluegrassers of the time were probably cursing Flatt & Scruggs and calling them "turncoats", one still has to admit this is just plain good music, no matter what walls stand between styles. Good music is good music, right?
I love their version of Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone", and I remember as a child listening to my grandmother's old 45 RPM of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (written by Dylan). At the time, I honestly thought it was a Flatt & Scruggs original and to this day, no matter who I hear sing that song, I always compare it to this version. It's just great singing/picking.
"Folsom Prison Blues" just doesn't work here, because that song works only for Cash, and on "Rainy Day Women #12&35", it's just hard to listen to Lester Flatt sing about getting stoned. It just doesn't work.
"If I Were A Carpenter" is done very tastefully here as well as "Gentle On My Mind", "Catch The Wind" and (my personal favorite on the CD)"Universal Soldier".
If you buy this CD expecting Bluegrass, you'll be in for a shock, but if you buy this CD expecting just plain good music, you'll be in for a treat.
I gave this 4 stars because the Earl Scruggs part, performed with friends Joan Baez, Doc Watson, Bob Dylan and The Byrds is so much better. Too bad that album is not available by itself.
I came across the "Earl Scruggs, His Family, and Friends" vinyl record the other day in a pawn shop for 50 cents! I had no idea what joys awaited my when I got it on my turntable. The music is outstanding, and the conversations between Earl, Doc Watson, Joan Baez, and others are fascinating.
Two songs, for example, were recorded at Doc's North Carolina home. Earl explains to the TV interviewer that the song they are about to play is un-rehearsed; Doc can be heard in the background saying "The music is usually better thattaway." And he is right - the ensuing performance of "The Last Thing on My Mind" is flawless, unless you count the sound of Doc's laughter early on...and who would call that a "flaw"?
At different times during the recording one can hear birds singing in the background, and during one segment what sounds like rain falling on the roof of the porch. This album takes the listener right to the porch with Earl, Doc, the Byrds, Bob and Joan (and the really great Morris Brothers, who I heard here for the first time). Is there any better setting for folk music?
I have not heard the "Flatt and Scruggs" album (tracks 15 - 25) but this CD is worth it for the first 14 tracks alone.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is (I still think) ahead of its time. One of many strange albums I grew up with, it is a sleeping "missing-link" of transition and fusion music done... Read more
Although this was not one of my favorite CD's done by Mr. Scruggs I do think is is worth buying.Published on October 10, 2001 by Richard E. Sherrick