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Country - Released September 28, 2018 | New Rounder

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Country - Released July 15, 2016 | New Rounder

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The notion of a handful of the best pickers in bluegrass paying homage to one of the music's most innovative and influential acts is inarguably appealing. And with their first album, the Earls of Leicester, the all-star Flatt & Scruggs tribute act assembled by Dobro master Jerry Douglas, demonstrated the great possibilities of such a concept. But they also revealed its Achilles' heel: their loving re-creation of Flatt & Scruggs' classic sides served as a powerful reminder of the strength of the originals without adding anything that couldn't be found in the old 78s, besides improved fidelity. Douglas and his bandmates haven't solved this dilemma on their second album, 2016's Rattle & Roar, but they have managed to use some subtle studio technique to give this session a more distinct personality than was displayed on the debut. As anyone would expect, the performances on Rattle & Roar are splendid, and the musicians -- Douglas, Johnny Warren on fiddle, Charlie Cushman on banjo, Shawn Camp on guitar and lead vocals, Jeff White on mandolin (replacing Tim O'Brien from the first album), and Barry Bales on upright bass -- sound even tighter and more joyously emphatic than they did before. (The harmonies are every bit as good, too.) While the production is unobtrusive, the audio is crisp, and the natural-sounding stereo makes the most of the group's dynamics. And bits like the radio-sweep introduction to "Steel Guitar Blues" brings a modern aspect to the project that doesn't interfere with the authenticity of the musical approach. Rattle & Roar isn't especially different from The Earls of Leicester, but two years of playing together and a bit more care in the studio have made a difference. This is a stronger set than their debut, and will appeal to anyone who loves classic bluegrass. ~ Mark Deming
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Country - Released January 1, 2014 | New Rounder

Hi-Res Booklet
$14.99

Country - Released September 28, 2018 | New Rounder

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Country - Released January 1, 2014 | New Rounder

$12.99

Country - Released January 1, 2014 | New Rounder

Booklet
Bill Monroe is often cited as the man who gave birth to bluegrass, and his contribution to the genre simply can't be overestimated, but one can reasonably argue that Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs had nearly as much to do with the growth of the music as Monroe (they certainly played a huge role in popularizing the revved-up acoustic style), and Scruggs more than anyone changed the role of the banjo in bluegrass, pioneering his own brand of fingerpicking that would come to supplant the clawhammer style as the dominant approach to the instrument. Jerry Douglas, widely acknowledged to be the finest dobro player in the game, is a serious Flatt & Scruggs fan, and he's created a remarkable fan's gesture by bringing together a handful of superb pickers to pay homage to his heroes. Douglas, noted guitarist and singer Shawn Camp, ace banjo player Charlie Cushman, Hot Rize founder and mandolin master Tim O'Brien, gifted fiddler Johnny Warren, and longtime Alison Krauss sideman and bassist Barry Bales team up as the Earls of Leicester on this album, playing 14 classics from the Flatt & Scruggs songbook in the classic style. It's certainly a pleasure to hear six players this strong playing music they clearly love, and everyone on board has a superb touch and a sincere appreciation of the material, especially Douglas, Cushman, and Camp. The Earls of Leicester is a loving tribute, re-creating the sound and feel of some of bluegrass' most influential and timeless music, but there is one real problem with this album: the players, great as they are, only bring so much of their personality to these songs, and while these performances are excellent, the Flatt & Scruggs originals were also excellent as well as being of massive historical importance. Which is to say that you might do just as well to get a good collection of classic Flatt & Scruggs sides as listen to this, and the players on board might just tell you the same thing. As a tribute, The Earls of Leicester is nearly flawless, and this may encourage some younger bluegrass fans to dig into the Flatt & Scruggs catalog, but as far as having a mind and a character of its own, these sessions leave a certain amount to be desired. ~ Mark Deming
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Country - Released July 15, 2016 | New Rounder

The notion of a handful of the best pickers in bluegrass paying homage to one of the music's most innovative and influential acts is inarguably appealing. And with their first album, the Earls of Leicester, the all-star Flatt & Scruggs tribute act assembled by Dobro master Jerry Douglas, demonstrated the great possibilities of such a concept. But they also revealed its Achilles' heel: their loving re-creation of Flatt & Scruggs' classic sides served as a powerful reminder of the strength of the originals without adding anything that couldn't be found in the old 78s, besides improved fidelity. Douglas and his bandmates haven't solved this dilemma on their second album, 2016's Rattle & Roar, but they have managed to use some subtle studio technique to give this session a more distinct personality than was displayed on the debut. As anyone would expect, the performances on Rattle & Roar are splendid, and the musicians -- Douglas, Johnny Warren on fiddle, Charlie Cushman on banjo, Shawn Camp on guitar and lead vocals, Jeff White on mandolin (replacing Tim O'Brien from the first album), and Barry Bales on upright bass -- sound even tighter and more joyously emphatic than they did before. (The harmonies are every bit as good, too.) While the production is unobtrusive, the audio is crisp, and the natural-sounding stereo makes the most of the group's dynamics. And bits like the radio-sweep introduction to "Steel Guitar Blues" brings a modern aspect to the project that doesn't interfere with the authenticity of the musical approach. Rattle & Roar isn't especially different from The Earls of Leicester, but two years of playing together and a bit more care in the studio have made a difference. This is a stronger set than their debut, and will appeal to anyone who loves classic bluegrass. ~ Mark Deming

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The Earls Of Leicester in the magazine
  • A Bluegrass Orgy
    A Bluegrass Orgy The Earls of Leicester, worthy heirs to the Foggy Mountain Boys of Flatt & Scruggs...