DVD Review: Return of Two Legends

Best of Flatt and Scruggs TV Show: Classic Bluegrass from 1956-1962, Vol. 1 and 2 (Shanachie Entertainment/The Country Music Hall of Fame)
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs

By Bob Mitchell

Advancement in audio technology is amazing! And, that is a lucky break for music fans. Shanachie Entertainment in conjunction with the Country Music Hall of Fame has issued two DVDs featuring long lost and never before released performances of the legendary team of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

Each DVD contains two 30-minute television broadcasts from the 1960s. These discs capture Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in their prime as they display the impeccable musicianship that earned them a place in the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Honor. Until the 1980s, it was believed that no copies of these broadcasts still existed. However some two-inch videotapes of twenty-four shows were found in a garage, donated to the Country Music Hall of Fame and lovingly transferred to DVD.

Each show contains a mix of vocals, instrumentals, comedy, gospel quartet performances, advertisements of the day, cooking demonstrations and guest appearances. Flatt's vocals are as honest and heartfelt and as can be heard anywhere. Scruggs's innovative and dynamic banjo is remarkable and mesmerizing. The harmony work from Curly Seckler is pure gold. Paul Warren's fiddle and Josh Grave's Dobro are exciting and imaginative. Jake Tullock's bass line is solid and perfectly understated.

One of the countless highlights is the guest appearance of Mother Maybelle Carter as she sings and plays her "new" recording, "Wildwood Flower," the national anthem of country and bluegrass music. A short list of outstanding tracks includes "Jimmy Brown the Newsboy," "Earl's Breakdown," "I Wonder How The Old Folks Are," Foggy Mountain Special," "Are You Washed In The Blood,""Before I Met You," "Jesus Savior Pilot Me," "John Henry" and "A Hundred Years from Now."

It's impossible for me to explain the feelings that filled me as I watched these two high-quality discs. Having met Flatt and Scruggs as a teen-ager I was transported back to a time when bluegrass was in its purest form. My eyes got misty more than once as I saw and heard one of the first generation bands that set the standard for a style of music loved by millions worldwide. If you were not there, or if you were there and you want to return to that time, this is a must have set. I eagerly anticipate the release of the next volumes.

On a five-point scale of historical traditional bluegrass, this project merits a ten. Highly, highly recommended.

For more information check out www.Shanachie.com.