In tune with Mark Rubin’s spotlight on the local folk/bluegrass scene in this week’s issue
, there are a couple of new releases that are causing a bit of a stir nationally. The two-volume Best of the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show
revisits fabled bluegrass duo Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ groundbreaking television show, which was broadcast to millions of homes throughout the South in the Fifties and Sixties. It ran until 1969, when the pair ended their partnership to take separate musical paths. Simply the first of its kind, their mix of bluegrass, gospel, comedy, and the occasional guest performer provided an outline for subsequent country variety shows to follow. The Martha White Flour in-show advertising and accompanying cooking demonstrations were precursors to modern product placement and goofy fun as well. Thought to be lost forever, more than 30 shows on tape were discovered in the late Eighties and early Nineties, and the Country Music Hall of Fame is now bringing them to the public.
The first two volumes feature episodes from 1961 and 1962, and they show Flatt & Scruggs at the peak of their performing powers. It’s all done with twinkling eyes, brisk and nimble fingers, and a humble, yet effervescent attitude. Most will be attracted to Vol. 2, which features a guest appearance by Mother Maybelle Carter from August 1961. However, either one offers a fascinating and entertaining glimpse into bluegrass history.
Local bluegrassers are aware that Ricky Skaggs and Del McCoury front two of the best bands in the land, through their regular appearances in Central Texas. Most might not be aware, however, that Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver are the equal to those two. There’s a reason that Quicksilver has been named the International Bluegrass Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year for the past six years. Their latest, More Behind the Picture Than the Wall
(Rounder), finds them in secular mode, yet no less moving than when they’re preaching the gospel. Lawson shows why he’s without peer on the mandolin on the dazzling "Tulsa Turn-a-Round," and lead singer Jamie Dailey stands out on the traditional chestnut "When the Blues Are Movin' In." Sure to be one of the bluegrass albums of the year, More Behind the Picture
is a must whether you’re just discovering old-time sounds or a geezer who’s been listening to them all along.
Finally, a simple answer to a simple question. The cover of this week’s Chronicle
asks: "Is ‘Old-Time Music’ Austin’s New Punk Rock?"