Earl Scruggs was only two years out of his partnership with Lester Flatt when he did the public television special that yielded Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends, an all-star effort that lives up to the promise of its big-name guests. Cut at the Grand Ole Opry, at the homes of Joan Baez and Doc Watson, the Doug Underwood Ranch (for the Byrds segment), the home of Wiley Morris (for the Morris Brothers), at a private home in Carmel, NY (for Bob Dylan's performance), at the site of the 1969 Vietnam War Moratorium in Washington, D.C., and at Madison High School in Madison, TN, the album and the special presented many facets of Scruggs' life and music and was quite daring in its time. Baez was like a lightning rod for controversy in those days, and Dylan wasn't too much more well-liked by the more conservative members of Scruggs' audience; and publicly presenting his own sympathy with the anti-war movement didn't necessarily earn the banjo virtuoso many points back in Nashville. As with almost every other aspect of Scruggs' life, however, his music won over even the harshest critics of his political views. And the music here is glorious -- not only is Scruggs, along with the Earl Scruggs Revue, in excellent form, but Baez is in impeccable voice for "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word," in a rendition with Scruggs' band, one of her greatest moments on record and worth the price of the CD by itself. Dylan is only present for "Nashville Skyline Rag," but considering how rarely seen he was in those days, any appearance was welcome. The version of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" done to gurgling, squawking synthesizer accompaniment could easily be dispensed with, but the Byrds' version of "You Ain't Going Nowhere" is priceless, and the Doc Watson material is as enjoyable as anything in his Vanguard Records output of the same period.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder