Flatt & Scruggs

Live at Vanderbilt University

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Although not as famous as their Carnegie Hall concert release, Live at Vanderbilt University was almost as significant an event at the time. The academic community in the south had always kept country music at arm's length -- the antipathy was centered in both intellectual and class snobbery, as well as the notion of this music as "hillbilly" music. The wall began breaking down in the early '60s as the folk revival reached the Southern campuses, and recording a live album at Vanderbilt was Flatt & Scruggs' way of announcing that bluegrass had arrived academically, and then some. The selection of songs here is more low-key than the Carnegie Hall show, and the displays of instrumental and vocal prowess somewhat more restrained -- there's no "Ballad of Jed Clampett," but there is an achingly beautiful "You Are My Flower," "Across the Blue Ridge Mountains," the exquisite Earl Scruggs-featured instrumental "Old Folks," and rippling versions of "Cannonball Blues" and "Shady Grove" (titled "Going Back to Harlan" here), among other folkier parts of the Flatt & Scruggs repertory. The crowd is sympathetic, the acoustics are fine, and this record is worth tracking down.

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