Flatt & Scruggs' songs remain as infectious and irresistible here as they always were. Let’s just hope the Stringdusters give us more of themselves next time.
1. I’d Rather Be Alone
2. Will You Be Lonesome
3. Blue Ridge Cabin Home
4. Earl's Breakdown
5. Cabin on the Hill
6. Down the Road
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs left behind a pool of songs that have withstood the test of time.
A full 75 years after the pair set out on their own from bluegrass progenitor Bill Monroe’s band - on their way to becoming pillars of bluegrass in their own right - Flatt & Scruggs tunes like ‘Blue Ridge Cabin Home’, ‘Down the Road’ and ‘Earl’s Breakdown’ still sound as appealing as ever.
For proof, look no further than A Tribute to Flatt & Scruggs, a 6-song effort from The Infamous Stringdusters that follows two years after the Denver quintet paid similar homage to Monroe.
While only half of the six songs the Stringdusters chose here were composed by Flatt and/or Scruggs, the duo’s charm and character is nevertheless undeniable.
In fact, the sturdiness of these songs is such that they almost can’t be played badly — or at least performed in such a way that they lose their immediacy or relatability.
There’s certainly something to be said for the pleasantness of these renditions, The Stringdusters have a real talent for creating a sense of ease. They also play with remarkable fluidity, with guitar, banjo, fiddle, dobro, bass, vocals and harmonies all blending together in graceful unison.
That said, the Stringdusters favor a smooth, sanitized production style that neutralizes some of the down-home spirit of the originals. Listening to recordings from the heyday of Flatt & Scruggs, it’s impossible not to conjure mental images of the landscape their music was borne from. The Stringdusters play with impeccable precision, but one never gets the impression that there’s dirt under their fingernails.
Moreover, the Stringdusters don’t cast these classic songs in any kind of new light. To be fair, they clearly aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. But the result of being so faithful means that the Stringdusters don’t find a way to make these songs their own. They certainly don’t have to — Flatt & Scruggs achieved bluegrass immortality specifically on the strength of songs like these.
Nevertheless, the songs remain as infectious and irresistible on A Tribute as they always were. Let’s just hope the Stringdusters give us more of themselves next time.
6.5 / 10
The Infamous Stringdusters' 2023 album, A Tribute To Flatt & Scruggs, is released April 21st via Americana Vibes.
For more country albums set for 2023 and their release dates, see below: