The first of four box sets documenting the complete recordings of Flatt & Scruggs as a working band, this one detailing the group's first 11 years is generally considered the most essential. These 113 tracks represent the duo's complete Mercury recordings on disc one and the beginning of their Columbia sides on discs two through four. There is one completely unissued cut, and the entire package has been remastered and contains copious liner notes. Contained here are the 1949 recordings of their classic "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and 1950's "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms," and also mid-'50s stompers such as "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke," "Flint Hill Special," and "You're Not a Drop in the Bucket"; gospel tunes such as "Give My Mother My Crown," "A Million Years in Glory," "Jesus Savior Pilot Me"; and hot singles such as "Cabin on the Hill," "Foggy Mountain Rock," and "Crying My Heart Out Over You." Beginning with the Bill Monroe band where Flatt's voice first countered Monroe's high lonesome, Flatt & Scruggs made that low, clear bell of a sound into a trademark -- as they did with Scruggs' unique banjo styles. While the music on later collections is fine and rousing, this is truly exciting with all the hope and trepidation of discovery and walking the high wire in search of something original. These four CDs are essential for every serious fan of bluegrass music.
by Thom Jurek