With his innovative three-finger style banjo playing, Earl Scruggs is as much responsible for the sound of bluegrass music as Bill Monroe. As such, the 40 tracks on this collection which represent 40 years of recording from his early work with Bill Monroe through his mid-80s performances with his sons is essential listening. Along with the first three tracks which represent his tenure with Monroe's Blue Grass Boys (including the classic "Molly and Tenbrooks"), the bulk of this collection consists of his 20-year partnership with Lester Flatt and the Foggy Mountain Boys (Disc One, 4-20 and Disc Two, 3-10). Many of these original compositions have become bluegrass classics: "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," "Don't Get Above Your Raising," "Flint Hill Special" among them. Scruggs is also an accomplished guitar player on tracks like "Jimmie Brown, the Newsboy" and the instrumental "Georgia Buck." The final ten tracks have Scruggs working with other artists, including the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tom T. Hall, Johnny Cash and ,of course, his sons in the Earl Scruggs Review. While Scruggs has recorded infrequently since the most recent track on this collection (1984's American-Made"), it would have been nice to have a track or two from 2001's EARL SCRUGGS AND FRIENDS and 2003's THREE PICKERS with Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs. My only real complaint is the brevity of these two discs (51:47 and 53:42, respectively). If this only whets your appetite, Flatt and Scruggs' COMPLETE MERCURY RECORDINGS (28 tracks) is back in print and 'TIS SWEET TO BE REMEMBERED (34 tracks) offers a broader look at the duo's tenure at Columbia. All things considred, this is collection makes a terrific crash course in bluegrass music and illustrates why Earl Scruggs is one of the giants of the genre. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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