Last Friday night, I was fortunate enough to see Earl Scruggs play at BB King's. Let me answer your first question; "Who is Earl Scruggs?" Earl Scruggs is half of Flatt & Scruggs, perhaps the most famous bluegrass band ever. Earl Eugene Scruggs is also considered to be the best five-string banjo player ever to grace the earth. Flatt & Scruggs were responsible for the theme song to Beverly Hillbillies, which yes, he did play on Friday. They were also responsible for an incredible amount of influential material, all of which I'll let you research after you read the rest of this review.
Your second question might be something like: "Huh? Scruggs? Why? B.B. Kings?" Well, to see a living legend like that is worth the trip in itself. Scruggs is 83 years old and can still rip the banjo apart. This man annihilates his instrument every second that he plays it-tuning it down while playing and playing with such speed that his 83 years of age goes unnoticed. This is no little indie rock Sufjan Stevens playing banjo. This is a Flint Hill, North Carolina, born kid who has been living and breathing banjo all his life. He is truly remarkable.
His band was fantastic as well. Two guitar players, Earl's son Gary on bass, the fantastic Hoot Hester on fiddle, and the best damn dobro player I've ever seen, Jennifer Kennedy. Ok, I admit, I haven't seen many dobro players in my day, but the 22 year old Kennedy stole the show at times on the corner of the stage in her red dress. Gary introduced her as a 13 year old. I believed him at the time.
Scruggs and Friends busted through a lot of songs throughout the set including Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere," Dill's "Long Black Veil," "The Ballad Of Jed Clampett," and the highlight of the night, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Scruggs had to sit a few out 'cause, hell, he's 83, but on the songs on which he did play banjo or guitar, he left the huge crowd breathless.
Bluegrass and folk music have always been a favorite of mine and B.B. Kings has a great agenda for the following weeks and months to fulfill the Appalachian man in me. It's a rather large venue and you're seated before the show, which might not sound fantastic, but really lends itself to an atmosphere where all you can think about is the music being performed. No need to worry about that annoying guy bumping into you or losing your spot if you have to go get a drink. (Actually, your waitress brings your drink. Jackpot!) Dr. John, Ramblin' Jack Elliot and Peter Rowan, Ralph Stanley, and Doc Watson will all be there in the coming months. And if you've never been to a Sunday Harlem Gospel Brunch...GO. Don't let the Times Square thing throw you off.