Earl Scruggs, Toby Keith Issue Lively New Releases

Banjo Master, Dude With a ‘Tude Have Fresh CDs

Earl Scruggs emerges from retirement for his first new album in 17 years. Earl Scruggs and Friends on MCA Nashville finds the master of the five-string banjo paired with an unlikely cast of duet mates. Scruggs, who made bluegrass history as the banjo drive behind Bill Monroe ’s Blue Grass Boys, as part of Flatt & Scruggs and as leader of the progressive Earl Scruggs Revue, may be best known by many for being responsible for the theme for “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” in the movie Bonnie and Clyde.

As the new CD makes evident, Scruggs continues to evolve in his music, working here on a variety of material with artists ranging from Don Henley to Sting to Dwight Yoakam . Scruggs and Elton John deliver a countrified version of John’s “Country Comfort” and John Fogerty sounds right at home on “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues.” Other artists are actor Billy Bob Thornton, comedian (and banjo player) Steve Martin, Melissa Etheridge, Albert Lee, Paul Shaffer, Leon Russell, Vince Gill , Travis Tritt , Rosanne Cash , Randy Scruggs , Gary Scruggs, Johnny Cash , and Marty Stuart .

Toby Keith ’s feisty follow-up to his equally attitudinal How Do You Like Me Now?! is characteristically titled Pull My Chain. Besides the title cut, Keith includes his new single, “I Wanna Talk About Me,” “I Can’t Take You Anywhere” and his current single, “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight.” Keith received two CMA Award nominations this week, for male vocalist of the year and for song of the year for “How Do You Like Me Now?!”

Randy Travis releases a live album this week on Image Entertainment. Songs on Live: It Was Just a Matter of Time include “Before You Kill Us All,” “He Walked on Water,” “Digging Up Bones,” and “The Hole.” Footage of the concert, filmed in December at the Sun Theatre in Anaheim, Calif., is also available on VHS and DVD.

Confederate Railroad ’s new CD on Audium Entertainment is titled Unleashed. It finds the former Georgia bar band mining familiar ground with such songs as “White Trash With Money,” “She Treats Her Body Like a Temple” and “Still One Outlaw Left.” George Jones and David Allan Coe guest on the album.

Ron Stewart, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s top fiddler for 2000-2001, has made his first solo album in 22 years, Time Stands Still. Multi-talented, Stewart plays fiddle and banjo as a member of the Lynn Morris Band and has appeared recently on albums by Dan Tyminski and Rhonda Vincent among others. The new CD includes six Stewart originals and a cover of Flatt & Scruggs’ “Gonna Have Myself a Ball.”

In its continuing 20th Century Masters: The Millennium series, MCA Nashville issues The Mavericks. Included are such Mavericks hits as “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down,” “What a Crying Shame,” “Blue Moon” and “Dance the Night Away.”

Rebel Records reissues Second Generation, an album recorded in 1971 by then-teenagers Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley . The two Kentuckians demonstrate their mastery of the Stanley Brothers sound on six Stanley classics and six non-Stanley tunes done in their classic bluegrass style. Among the tracks on the remastered collection is “All I Ever Loved Was You” written by Skaggs’ mother, Dorothy.