Friday, February 8, 2013

Flatt & Scruggs: Hard Travelin'

After listening to the big 2LP set of Flatt & Scruggs (reviewed here), I dug out a studio album that I picked up on a trip to Lancaster, PA last year. "Hard Travelin'" was released in 1963, just about the time of the Beverly Hillbillies debut on TV - notice that the jacket calls out "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" prominently!

While F&S are renowned for their bluegrass roots, "Hard Travelin'" features precious little bluegrass - it's more of a straight country album in the mold of the early-60s. Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of bright spots, like "Ballad", and "99 Years Is Almost For Life", the story of a young man wrongly put away for a long time by a judge who wanted his fiancee. There's also "The Wreck Of The Old 97", a train song in the best Southern tradition of train songs, complete with "you'll be sorry" danger warning. And "Pastures of Plenty" is a farm-worker's lament, very much like that of Woody Guthrie's "Deportee", but from the other side of the coin.

All in all, not a bad record, but an average one. Listeners looking for a hard fix of bluegrass pickin' will not sate their lust here, but if you're in a Country barn-dance sort of mood, this might just fit the bill. (Later reissued as "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" by Columbia, who knew a good thing when they saw one.)

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