With the banjo enjoying a resurgence in country music, the instrument’s greatest master, Earl Scruggs, will release a collection joining him with an eclectic roster of singers and musicians — including Elton John, Sting and Melissa Etheridge — all eager to pay homage to the bluegrass pioneer.
Slated for release Aug. 1 on MCA Nashville, Earl Scruggs and Friends is produced by his son, Randy Scruggs. John sings and plays piano on “Country Comfort” a song from his second album. Etheridge does “The Angels” from her 1989 release, Brave & Crazy. Sting teams with Scruggs on “Fill Her Up,” a track from his 1999 album, Brand New Day.
Also making appearances with Scruggs, who plays banjo throughout: Dwight Yoakam, on a new tune, “Borrowed Love”; actor-director Billy Bob Thornton, on “Ring of Fire”; John Fogerty, who chooses “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues,” a traditional tune he did for his Blue Ridge Rangers project; and Don Henley and Johnny Cash on “Passin’ Thru,” written by Cash and Randy Scruggs and included on Randy Scruggs’ Crown of Jewels album.
Another Cash — Rosanne — joins Vince Gill and Scruggs on “I Found Love,” a new song penned by Gill with Randy and Earl Scruggs.
Comedian Steve Martin plays a banjo solo on a version of the Scruggs classic “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” that also features Gill, Marty Stuart, Paul Shaffer and Leon Russell, among others.”
Earl and his son Gary team with Travis Tritt on the Gary Scruggs/Kevin Welch tune “True Love Never Dies.” Earl and Randy do “Somethin’ Just Ain’t Right,” a new tune by Randy. And Scruggs and Stuart combine on an instrumental medley of famous Scruggs tunes, “Foggy Mountain Rock/Foggy Mountain Rock.
The set promises to be an outstanding package and a real family affair. Scruggs’ wife and longtime manager, Louise Scruggs, contributes highly informative liner notes. “He turned a banjo, often referred to as a comedian’s prop, into a lead instrument,” Mrs. Scruggs writes. “His style would ultimately carry his name in history books all over the universe. He was an original.”