BLURB

The Earls of Leicester have discovered a kind of magic that, when harnessed, allows moments once relegated to memories to roar back to life. Old sounds rattle loose chains of space and time that have kept us from forgotten joys and who we once were. Suddenly, as we listen to and watch the Earls pick, saw, and croon, instead of contemplating once upon a time, we are living it. With their second album Rattle & Roar (Rounder Records), the Earls have conjured up a fresh batch of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs songs, delivered with their Grammy-winning signature blend of homage, virtuosity, and perspective. The inimitable Jerry Douglas (14-time Grammy-winner) remains the band’s producer and hypnotic Dobroist; blue-ribbon songwriter, singer, and producer Shawn Camp (Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton) still soars on lead vocals and guitar; revered multi-instrumentalist and sideman Jeff White (Vince Gill, Loretta Lynn) now deftly handles high harmony and mandolin; ace Nashville banjoist Charlie Cushman (Jimmy Martin, Mel Tillis) tackles banjo and guitars; topflight musician Johnny Warren (son of Foggy Mountain Boys’ Paul Warren) cuts in radiantly on fiddle; and the esteemed Barry Bales (Alison Krauss & Union Station) holds magnificently steady on vocals and bass. To capture the feel of a live show, Rattle & Roar was recorded in one room, with all of the band members around mics, no separation between them. The result pulses with impish joy, uniquely showcasing artists at the top of their game as they delight in their work not just as creators, but also as fans struck with childlike awe.

BIOGRAPHY

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The Earls of Leicester
Rattle & Roar
Release Date: July 15, 2016

The Earls of Leicester have discovered a kind of magic that, when harnessed, allows moments once relegated to memories to roar back to life. Old sounds rattle loose chains of space and time that have kept us from forgotten joys and who we once were. Suddenly, as we listen to and watch the Earls pick, saw, and croon, instead of contemplating once upon a time, we are living it.

“Many audience members have come up to me after a show and said, ‘I thought that sound was gone,’” says Dobro master Jerry Douglas, the group’s founder. “And that’s just how it struck me when the band rehearsed the first time. I hadn’t heard that sound since Flatt and Scruggs––experienced that meeting in the air of those notes in that particular way. It’s an emotional experience.”

The Earls’ lead vocalist Shawn Camp remembers that first rehearsal just as well. “Only eight bars into the music I had to stop everybody because it made my hair stand up­­––it was so close to what Flatt and Scruggs sounded like,” he says.

With their second album Rattle & Roar (Rounder Records), the Earls have conjured up a fresh batch of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs songs, delivered with the Earls’ now signature blend of homage, virtuosity, and perspective. The inimitable Douglas remains the band’s producer and hypnotic Dobroist; blue-ribbon songwriter, singer, and producer Camp still soars on lead vocals and guitar; revered multi-instrumentalist and sideman Jeff White now deftly handles high harmony and mandolin; ace Nashville banjoist Charlie Cushman tackles banjo and guitars; topflight musician Johnny Warren cuts in radiantly on fiddle; and the esteemed Barry Bales, a longtime bandmate of Douglas in Alison Krauss and Union Station, holds magnificently steady on vocals and bass. “It’s like the band was predestined to come together,” says Camp. “We all love it. From the very first note of our show, I look around and everybody’s got a smile on their face. There’s just something about the music that makes you feel good.”

The band released its eponymous debut in 2014 to immediate acclaim, including the 2015 Grammy for Bluegrass Album of the Year and sweeping wins at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. It became overwhelmingly clear that 21st century listeners couldn’t get enough of the Earls’ recreations of songs sown by a pioneering duo more than half a century ago.

When asked what it is about Flatt and Scruggs that audiences still seem so hungry to hear, Douglas doesn’t hesitate. “I think it’s a combination of the music itself and the show,” he says. “We have sort of morphed into their show as well––the way we MC it.” At an Earls’ show, straightman intros and sly asides transform the spaces between songs into a tap-dancing combination of context, comedy, and history lessons, all inspired by the Foggy Mountain Boys, Flatt and Scruggs’ band formed in 1948 and active until 1969. “I go out on some pretty strange limbs myself because I know that Shawn, my foil on stage, will sound so much like Lester Flatt when he MCs,” Douglas says. “He’s the real thing. So I say some pretty off-the-wall stuff.”

Live, the Earls also take turns rushing in for solos. Douglas describes his and his bandmates’ hotfooting in vivid detail, from Cushman “creeping up the middle” to Warren’s deep-rooted antics. “Johnny will come swooping in from the side singing the quartet or come around the back and go between the singers to play a solo,” Douglas says. “There’s a lot of choreography employed on stage. Johnny does that because that’s the way his father did it, and that’s the way he’s going to do it.”

Warren’s father is the late Paul Warren, legendary fiddler for the Foggy Mountain Boys. The elder Warren kept a diary of songs and dates that the Earls mine for ideas, while all of the members also suggest material spurred by their own memories as well as old radio and live shows originally recorded on reel-to-reel tape.

Those collaborative deep dives into Flatt and Scruggs by some of the best living musicians––bluegrass or otherwise––built Rattle & Roar, a collection spanning exhumed nuggets and familiar favorites. To capture the feel of a live show, the album was recorded in one room, with all of the band members in a line, no separation between them. “This is about as live as a record can be. I hope listeners can hear the fun that’s going on,” Camp says. “They’re listening to everything go down, right then, at that moment. A lot of music can be made in an instant.”

Rattle & Roar pulses with impish joy and immediacy, uniquely showcasing artists at the top of their game as they delight in their work not just as creators, but also as fans struck with childlike awe. The songs’ themes of spirituality, love lost or found, war, and ex-convicts still resonate. “They can be rude too,” Douglas adds, laughing. “Take the first song on the record, ‘The Train That Carried My Girl from Town.’ It’s pretty violent. There’s some crazy stuff in there.”

Over thumping guitar, rolling banjo, chugging bass, Dobro that pleads and echoes, and rich fiddle, the album opener delights in furious revenge wishes delivered with naked sincerity. “I wish to the Lord that train would wreck / kill the engineer and break that fireman’s neck,” Camp confesses somewhat sweetly, then follows with plenty of other innuendo and lines sure to make listeners wonder if they heard him correctly.

“All I Want is You” is a showpiece, offering Camp a chance to croon. “Lester Flatt was sort of the Bing Crosby of this genre of music,” Douglas says. “He could have been a big band singer. He sang the entire melody, all changes, augments––they didn’t have to be whole notes. He really stretched, and so does Shawn. I love hearing him sing it.” Harmony-drenched “You Can Feel It in Your Soul” bounces with gospel fervor cushioned by warm strings, while “I’m Working on a Road to Gloryland” features multiple vocal bows worthy of a riverside revival. Instrumentals including “Flint Hill Special” and “Buck Creek Gal” are spirited back-and-forths between giants. “You can’t pretend or fake your way through this stuff,” Camp says. “It’s got to be right, or it’s wrong. And when we play together, it’s right.”

The lush instrumental “Steel Guitar Blues” was discovered on one of those old reel-to-reel recordings, as well as “Pray for the Boys,” the album’s solemn closer that hits just as hard today as when Flatt and Scruggs performed it in the 50s. It’s a fitting sendoff, brimming with feeling. Stunner “My Mother Prays So Loud in Her Sleep” features a room-shushing three-part vocal ascension that the Earls took pains to get right. “When we were rehearsing, we all got our heads together, listened to the original, and asked, ‘Okay, who is that on the high part? Is that Curly [Seckler] or Lester? We scoped in, and now, we’re sure it’s Lester,” says Douglas. “It’s things like that that we do together that make this band really work and exceptional.”

Every audience member who approaches the band after a show to reminisce or marvel is an integral part of the Earls’ very existence. “That’s part of what drives us to want to be close to the old style––just to see that excitement in those old people’s eyes,” Camp says. But as much as the Earls are a reincarnation of a sound that older generations have missed––an unexpected Proustian take on bluegrass––the band is especially interested in reaching new ears. “I hope people who don’t know Flatt and Scruggs hear this and think it’s totally new music,” Douglas says. “Then, I hope they find out what we’re doing and go out and buy every Flatt and Scruggs record they can find.”                   

PRESS RELEASE

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Bluegrass Superstars The Earls of Leicester Unveil Rattle & Roar;
Grammy-Winning Sextet Gears Up For Summer Tour
In Support of Sophomore Outing, Due July 15

Hear “The Train That Carried My Girl From Town,”
Exclusively at Rolling Stone Country
http://rol.st/1qZi7rS

April 18, 2016 – Nashville, TN – The Earls of Leicester, the award-winning, acclaimed sextet that comprises some of the finest musicians in bluegrass, will release their second album, Rattle & Roar, July 15 on Rounder Records.

Rattle & Roar is the follow-up to the Earls’ eponymous debut, which inspired tremendous critical accolades, and earned a Grammy award for Best Bluegrass Album. The band also went on to win six International Bluegrass Music Association awards, including the coveted Album of the Year and Entertainer of the Year honors.

With Rattle & Roar, the Earls –  Barry Bales, Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman,  Jerry Douglas,  Johnny Warren, and Jeff White -- have conjured up a fresh batch of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs songs, delivered with their now signature blend of homage, virtuosity, and perspective.

The inimitable Douglas remains the band’s producer and hypnotic Dobroist; blue-ribbon songwriter, singer, and producer Camp still soars on lead vocals and guitar; revered multi-instrumentalist and sideman Jeff White now deftly handles high harmony and mandolin; ace Nashville banjoist Charlie Cushman tackles banjo and guitars; topflight musician Johnny Warren cuts in radiantly on fiddle; and the esteemed Barry Bales, Douglas’ longtime bandmate in Alison Krauss and Union Station, holds magnificently steady on vocals and bass.

Those collaborative deep dives into Flatt and Scruggs by some of the best living musicians––bluegrass or otherwise––built Rattle & Roar, a collection spanning exhumed nuggets and familiar favorites. To capture the feel of a live show, the album was recorded in one room, with all of the band members in a line, no separation between them. “This is about as live as a record can be. I hope listeners can hear the fun that’s going on,” Camp says. “They’re listening to everything go down, right then, at that moment. A lot of music can be made in an instant.”

Rattle & Roar pulses with impish joy and immediacy, uniquely showcasing artists at the top of their game as they delight in their work not just as creators, but also as fans.

The songs’ themes of spirituality, love lost or found, war, and ex-convicts still resonate. The album opener, “The Train That Carried My Girl From Town,” delights in furious revenge wishes delivered with naked sincerity. “I wish to the Lord that train would wreck / kill the engineer and break that fireman’s neck,” Camp confesses somewhat sweetly, then follows with plenty of other innuendo and lines sure to make listeners wonder if they heard him correctly.  Rolling Stone Country premiered the track exclusively. Listen to it here: http://rol.st/1qZi7rS

“All I Want Is You” is a showpiece, offering Camp a chance to croon. “Lester Flatt was sort of the Bing Crosby of this genre of music,” Douglas says. “He could have been a big band singer. He sang the entire melody, all changes, augments––they didn’t have to be whole notes. He really stretched, and so does Shawn. I love hearing him sing it.”

Harmony-drenched “You Can Feel It in Your Soul” bounces with gospel fervor cushioned by warm strings, while “I’m Working on a Road to Gloryland” features multiple vocal bows worthy of a riverside revival.

Instrumentals including “Flint Hill Special” and “Buck Creek Gal” are spirited back-and-forths between giants. “You can’t pretend or fake your way through this stuff,” Camp says. “It’s got to be right, or it’s wrong. And when we play together, it’s right.”

The lush instrumental “Steel Guitar Blues” was discovered on an old reel-to-reel recording, as was “Pray for the Boys,” the album’s solemn closer. “My Mother Prays So Loud in Her Sleep” features a three-part vocal ascension that the Earls took pains to get right. “When we were rehearsing, we all got our heads together, listened to the original, and asked, ‘Okay, who is that on the high part? Is that Curly [Seckler] or Lester? We scoped in, and now, we’re sure it’s Lester,” says Douglas. “It’s things like that that we do together that make this band really work and exceptional.”

As much as the Earls are a reincarnation of a sound that older generations have missed––an unexpected Proustian take on bluegrass––the band is especially interested in reaching new ears. “I hope people who don’t know Flatt and Scruggs hear this and think it’s totally new music,” Douglas says. “Then, I hope they find out what we’re doing and go out and buy every Flatt and Scruggs record they can find.”

The Earls of Leicester will be on tour throughout 2016. More dates will be announced in the coming weeks.

For more information, please contact Regina Joskow rjoskow@rounder.com, 917-532-5687 or Ashley Moyer ashley.moyer@concordmusicgroup.com, 615-928-4777.

Track list: 

  1. The Train That Carried My Girl from Town (2:46)
  2. Why Did You Wander? (2:49)
  3. All I Want Is You (3:04)
  4. Steel Guitar Blues intro (0:10)
  5. Steel Guitar Blues (2:35)
  6. You Can Feel It in Your Soul (3:02)
  7. A Faded Red Ribbon (2:48)
  8. Just Ain’t (2:14)
  9. Mother Prays Loud In Her Sleep (3:33)
  10. I’m Working On A Road (To Glory Land) (3:00)
  11. Will You Be Lonesome Too? (3:04)
  12. Flint Hill Special (2:38)
  13. What’s Good for You (Should Be Alright for Me) (2:44)
  14. The Girl I Love Don’t Pay Me No Mind (2:50)
  15. Branded Wherever I Go (2:33)
  16. Buck Creek Gal (1:29)
  17. Pray For the Boys (3:00)

TECH COPY

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TECH COPY (CD Booklet)                          street date: 07/15/2016

ARTIST: The Earls of Leicester

TITLE: Rattle & Roar

LABEL: Rounder

UPC: 888072000544

1166100001

 

Produced by Jerry Douglas                                                     

Recorded and Mixed by David Ferguson, assisted by Sean Sullivan, at The Butcher Shoppe, Nashville, Tennessee, February 15 – March 3, 2016

Mastered by David Glasser at Airshow Mastering, Boulder, Colorado

 

Photography: Anthony Scarlati, assisted by Patrick Sheehan

Package Design:  

 

The Earls of Leicester are:

Barry Bales – bass, vocals

Shawn Camp – guitar, lead vocals

Charlie Cushman – banjo, lead guitar, Gibson L-5 sock rhythm guitar

Jerry Douglas – Dobro, vocals

Johnny Warren – fiddle, bass vocals

Jeff White – mandolin, vocals

Dan Auerbach – snare drum on “The Train That Carried My Girl from Town” and “Just Ain’t”

Dan Auerbach appears courtesy of Nonesuch Records

 

Special thanks to the McRedmond Family, David Ferguson, and John Prine.

Thanks to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys for giving us a reason for being. 

Thanks to Shawn Lane, Lou Reid, Frank Solivan, Mike Guggino, Zach Newton, Dan Auerbach, Sturgill Simpson (“Turtles all the way down”), Jill Douglas, DJ McLachlan, Andrew Stokes, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Vince Gill, Aliceson Bales, Dr. Carla Cushman, Kathy Warren, Betty and Darrel Camp, Laura Cash, Kendal Beahm, Kurt Storey, Olivia Douglas, Alex Boenigk, Shirley Hutchins, The Squirrel Nest, Ryan Carr, Patrick Sheehan Photography, Anthony Scarlati Photography, Jess Rosen, Craig Ferguson, Julie Rakotz Aijala, Curly Seckler, Del McCoury, Paul Beard, Charlie Chadwick, Eddie Stubbs, Ken Irwin, John Virant, Tracy Gershon, Eliza Levy, Adam Jones, and everyone at Rounder Records, Frank Riley and everyone at High Road Touring, Christie and Walter Carter at Carter Vintage Instruments, New Frontier Touring, Paul Lohr, Mary Matthews, Philip Graham at Ear Trumpet Labs, Irene Bryant, Steve C. Chandler, Kent Blanton, Frank & Ricky Neat, Fishman, Jay Orr, Lin Barber, George Gruhn, Tom Spaulding at D’Addario Strings, Adam Hudson at Tour Supply, Robert Williams at Sweetwater Pro Audio, Pete Fisher, The Grand Ole Opry, the Davidson Road Group, William Lewis, Curtis McPeake, JT Gray, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the International Bluegrass Music Association, Big Al’s Restaurant, and Ooh Wee Chicken!

We are grateful to all the festivals, clubs, and concert halls that have hosted our performances across this great country, and to the fans of The Earls of Leicester. You are the best!

In memory of Lance Leroy, Evelyn Graves, Bill Yates, Skip Ogden, and Ann Soyars.

 

"I want to thank God for the privilege of playing this music, with these guys, and for allowing me to take a stroll in my father’s shoes." 

 −Johnny Warren

 

"I have really enjoyed listening to the record. It brings back a lot of good memories. Good job boys.”

−Curly Seckler

 

“The Earls of Leicester are committed to preservation, promotion, and advancement of one of the most sacred sounds in country and bluegrass music. As keepers of the flame, for those of us who love, honor, and cherish traditional music, they give us enthusiasm for the past in the present, and hope for our future. 

Let me encourage you to seek out all of their recorded material, and by all means go witness them in full concert.  It will be a truly unique and memorable experience.”

 − Eddie Stubbs, WSM Grand Ole Opry Announcer

 

earlsofleicester.com

jerrydouglas.com

rounder.com

 

(P) & (C) 2016 Rounder Records, a division of Concord Music Group, Inc., 100 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Printed in the U.S.A. 1166100001

 

 

LABEL COPY (CD Booklet)                        street date: 07/15/2016

ARTIST: The Earls of Leicester

TITLE: Rattle & Roar

LABEL: Rounder

UPC: 888072000544

1166100001

 

   1.   The Train That Carried My Girl from Town (2:46)

         (Frank Hutchison)

         Copyright Control

 

   2.   Why Did You Wander? (2:49)

         (Lester Flatt-Bill Monroe)

         APRS (BMI) / Bill Monroe Music (BMI)

 

   3.   All I Want Is You (3:04)

         (Lance Guynes)

         Golden West Melodies Inc. (BMI)

 

   4.   Steel Guitar Blues intro (0:10)

 

   5.   Steel Guitar Blues (2:35)

         (Roy Acuff)

         Sony ATV/Acuff Rose Music (BMI)

 

   6.   You Can Feel It in Your Soul (3:02)

         (Gladys Stacey)

         Golden West Melodies Inc. (BMI)

 

   7.   A Faded Red Ribbon (2:48)

         (Dennis Bassham)

         Scruggs Music Inc. (BMI)
 

   8.   Just Ain’t (2:14)

         (Hal Willis-Ginger Willis)

         Sony ATV/Tree Publishing (BMI)

 

   9.   Mother Prays Loud In Her Sleep (3:33)

         (Onie Wheeler-Tony Lee)

         APRS (BMI)

 

10.   I’m Working On A Road (To Glory Land) (3:00)

         (Lester Flatt)

         APRS (BMI)

 

 

11.   Will You Be Lonesome Too? (3:04)

         (Alton Delmore)

         Vidor Publications Inc (BMI)

 

12.   Flint Hill Special (2:38)

         (Earl Scruggs)

         APRS (BMI) / Scruggs Music Inc (BMI)

 

13.   What’s Good for You (Should Be Alright for Me) (2:44)

         (Vernon Claud-Marijohn Wilkin)

         (SABAM) / Universal Music Publishing Group (BMI)

 

14.   The Girl I Love Don’t Pay Me No Mind (2:50)

         (Arthur Leroy Smith)

         Unichappell Music Inc. (BMI)

 

15.   Branded Wherever I Go (2:33)

         (Roy Acuff)

         Sony/ATV Acuff Rose Music (BMI)

 

16.   Buck Creek Gal (1:29)

         (Traditional)

        

17.   Pray For the Boys (3:00)

         (Videt Polk)

         Bridge Building Music (BMI)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUTSIDE TRAY CREDITS                                street date: 07/15/2016

ARTIST: The Earls of Leicester

TITLE: Rattle & Roar

LABEL: Rounder

UPC: 888072000544

1166100001

 

   1.   The Train That Carried My Girl from Town (2:46)

 

   2.   Why Did You Wander? (2:49)

 

   3.   All I Want Is You (3:04)

 

   4.   Steel Guitar Blues intro (0:10)

 

   5.   Steel Guitar Blues (2:35)

 

   6.   You Can Feel It in Your Soul (3:02)

 

   7.   A Faded Red Ribbon (2:48)

 

   8.   Just Ain’t (2:14)

 

   9.   Mother Prays Loud In Her Sleep (3:33)

 

10.   I’m Working On A Road (To Glory Land) (3:00)

 

11.   Will You Be Lonesome Too? (3:04)

 

12.   Flint Hill Special (2:38)

 

13.   What’s Good for You (Should Be Alright for Me) (2:44)

 

14.   The Girl I Love Don’t Pay Me No Mind (2:50)

 

15.   Branded Wherever I Go (2:33)

 

16.   Buck Creek Gal (1:29)

        

17.   Pray For the Boys (3:00)

 

Produced by Jerry Douglas                                                      

 

earlsofleicester.com

jerrydouglas.com

rounder.com

 

(P) & (C) 2016 Rounder Records, a division of Concord Music Group, Inc., 100 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Printed in the U.S.A. 1166100001

 

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[Bar Code]

 

 

CD LABEL COPY                                                 street date: 07/15/2016

ARTIST: The Earls of Leicester

TITLE: Rattle & Roar

LABEL: Rounder

UPC: 888072000544

1166100001

 

(P) & (C) 2016 Rounder Records, a division of Concord Music Group, Inc., 100 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws. Made in the U.S.A. 1166100001

 

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LINER NOTES                                                       street date: 07/15/2016

ARTIST: The Earls of Leicester

TITLE: Rattle & Roar

LABEL: Rounder

UPC: 888072000544

1166100001

 

A great band makes a distinctive, glorious noise, whether it’s the Rolling Stones, the John Coltrane Quartet or Merle Haggard and the Strangers.

For Jerry Douglas, the phrase “Rattle & Roar” calls up the musical essence of bluegrass masters Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. The phrase, from the railroad song “Southbound,” also captures the approach of the Earls of Leicester, the band that noted Dobroist Douglas founded in 2013 to bring back Flatt and Scruggs’ foundational music for a new generation of listeners.

In a few years, the band has created a brand built on authenticity, sparkling musicianship and hillbilly hipness. This collection extends the achievement of their self-titled debut disc, which earned the 2014 Grammy for bluegrass album and multiple awards at the 2015 International Bluegrass Music Association conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Flatt and Scruggs’ diverse sound reaches a new level in the hands of the current Earls lineup of Douglas, lead singer-guitarist Shawn Camp, fiddler Johnny Warren (the son of Flatt and Scruggs fiddler Paul Warren), mandolinist-vocalist Jeff White, banjo man Charlie Cushman and upright bassist Barry Bales. (The band name refers to Earl Scruggs and to the English proper name that is pronounced “Lester.”)

“On the first record we were trying to be exactly like Flatt and Scruggs,” Douglas said one cold spring morning at his home in the Nashville hills. “This record is what Flatt and Scruggs would have done if they had had time to listen to it the next day.”

Based on the Flatt and Scruggs sound of the early to mid-1960s, “Rattle & Roar” ranges from the old-timey fiddle-and-banjo number “Buck Creek Gal” to the plaintive Lester Flatt-Bill Monroe composition “Why Did You Wander,” to harmony-rich gospel and patriotic tunes like “Pray For the Boys” and “You Can Feel It in Your Soul.” The lonesome whine of “Steel Guitar Blues” fits next to country & western songs like “Just Ain’t,” complete with snare drum and slap-rhythm, arch-top guitar. It’s a far-reaching selection of the songs the Foggy Mountain Boys presented during millions of miles of travel through the South and far beyond.

“Now that I’ve lived that life, I kind of know what they were going through,” said Douglas, a paid picker for more than 40 years. “They wanted to entertain themselves, so they could entertain the audience.”

“That’s what freed me”

Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys ruled the music eventually known as bluegrass from 1948 until their breakup in 1969. Flatt and Scruggs met during a mid-1940s apprenticeship with mandolinist-singer Bill Monroe, a Grand Ole Opry star and their co-founder of bluegrass. When they left Monroe, the duo earned millions of fans based on Scruggs’ masterful banjo and Flatt’s heartfelt vocal and MC work. The Foggy Mountain Boys’ polished, driving accompaniment included the bluesy style of Dobro man Josh Graves and the old-school drive of fiddler Paul Warren. From working country schoolhouses to creating the soundtracks for “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show and the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde,” Flatt and Scruggs injected waves of acoustic sounds deep into the popular music mainstream.

Douglas, 60, the most accomplished and influential player of the Dobro, has made his own deep impact in contemporary music. Influenced by Flatt and Scruggs and other acts during his Ohio childhood, he built on Southern roots to create a style that fits in pop, jazz, rock and roll, blues and modern country. He gave the Dobro a new role by using cascades of open and noted strings, picked with free-flowing right-hand patterns. “I found I could go to one chord to another without stopping, and that’s what freed me,” Douglas said.

His approach transformed the prevalent Dobro style in bluegrass, which mixed Scruggs picking, Hawaiian music and blues, into a far more versatile and adaptable sound. The achievement was akin to Scruggs’ rescue of the old Southern banjo through his disciplined creation of a rapid-fire three-finger picking style on the instrument.

“The thing blew up”

Douglas had been riveted after first hearing the Foggy Mountain Boys at age seven. He knew what he wanted to be.

“We all grew up listening to it,” Douglas said of the Earls’ love of Flatt and Scruggs. “It’s part of our fiber.”

Douglas became a topline player during jobs with influential bands like the Country Gentlemen, J.D. Crowe and the New South, Boone Creek and the Whites. During the 1980s and ‘90s, he played so many recording sessions that he burned out on the studio life. What was first billed as a temporary gig with Alison Krauss and Union Station has turned into two decades with the popular singer and fiddler.

“Alison called at just the right time,” Douglas said.

            While also participating fully in Union Station, he also appears in his own spotlight numbers during their shows. In addition, he has made solo discs and continued to play sessions – think Eric Clapton, James Taylor, John Fogerty ─ as his preference and time allowed.

But hard-core bluegrass and the style of Flatt and Scruggs Dobroist Josh Graves continued to call. “It sort of cleanses my soul,” Douglas said.

A recording session with banjoist Cushman and fiddler Warren, as hard-core Foggy Mountain Boys followers as one might find, gave Douglas a sense that it would be possible to recreate the Flatt and Scruggs sound for a new generation. The success of the Earls of Leicester totally exceeded any of the founders’ notions, he said.

“We thought we’d make a Flatt and Scruggs record to raise the awareness of what they’d done,” Douglas said. “Then the thing blew up.”

       The surprises kept coming as winners were called out at the 2015 IBMA Awards Show. The Earls of Leicester picked up IBMA awards for entertainer of the year, album of the year, best gospel recorded performance, male vocalist of the year for Camp and Dobro player of the year for Douglas.

The recognition makes sense, as the Earls are a highly credentialed crew. Bassist Bales has a diverse portfolio that includes playing sessions, producing records (Sierra Hull), and writing hit songs with the likes of country breakthrough artist Chris Stapleton, in addition to his long-held role as bass player for Alison Krauss & Union Station. Jeff White is also noted picker and songwriter as well as a long-time Vince Gill band member.

Warren has another identity as an in-demand PGA Teaching Professional, operating his own golf academy and claiming numerous awards as a teacher. Camp, taking the crucial Lester Flatt role in the Earls, has built a career as a singer, songwriter and producer, coming up with hits for artists including Garth Brooks, George Strait and Blake Shelton. And Cushman, who has the job of recreating Earl Scruggs’ firecracker banjo and guitar styles, works not only as a musician, but also as a banjo restorer, collector and historian.

Playing about 30 dates a year from a Nashville base and recording virtually live in the studio, the Earls can hang onto their day jobs and keep the Flatt and Scruggs sound alive, too.

“I’m pretty happy with the way this turned out,” Douglas said as the interview wound to a close. “I had such a love for this type of music. I think we’ve been heard. I think we’ve gotten our point across.”

 

Thomas Goldsmith

Nashville/Raleigh

March 2016

 

Goldsmith, a journalist and musician in North Carolina, is finishing a book on Earl Scruggs and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” for the University of Illinois Press.

 

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