The Earls of Leicester Rattle & Roar
Published Jul 13, 2016Rattle & Roar is the second instalment of Jerry Douglas's tribute to pioneering bluegrass musicians Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, otherwise known as the Earls of Leicester. Douglas (Dobro) is joined by Barry Bales (bass), Shawn Camp (lead vocals, guitar), Charlie Cushman (banjo, guitar), Johnny Warren (fiddle) and Jeff White (mandolin), first-rate musicians who deliver impressive performances on the album.
The material is a good cross-section of Flatt and Scruggs fare: fast shredders, ballads, a generous helping of gospel numbers and the famous tuning-peg-style banjo tune, "Flint Hill Special." Shawn Camp's vocals are what make the difference between good and great songs on this album. A country singer at heart, his delivery is a bit too smooth and croon-y for some of the material ("Train That Carried My Girl From Town"), but on some songs, he really nails it ("Branded Wherever I Go," "Why Did You Wander?").
The Earls of Leicester project, an attempt to recreate the authentic Flatt-and-Scruggs-era sound, brings successful later-generation bluegrass musicians back to the roots of their music, pays homage to some of the pioneering greats of the genre and entices newer generations of listeners to scour the back catalogues for the original versions of these older songs.
Recorded in one room, it's also a nod to a simpler approach to recording, before sound booths and AutoTune, although at times, it can feel a bit artificial. Fans of Jerry Douglas — arguably the best Dobro player who's ever lived — may find his recreations of simpler "Uncle" Josh Graves-esque Dobro licks a bit unsatisfying, and the immediacy and newness of the music as recorded by Flatt and Scruggs and their contemporaries can't quite be recaptured by modern bluegrass musicians recording with modern equipment.
Still, the Earls are about as good a Flatt and Scruggs tribute band as you'll find, and Rattle & Roar makes for a fun listen. (Rounder)