Album Review of
Foggy Mountain Gospel

Written by Joe Ross
October 7, 2015 - 12:00am EDT
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After recording for Mercury, Flatt & Scruggs started recording for Columbia in 1950. Their last Columbia session was 1969. This 2-CD “Foggy Mountain Gospel” set presents material recorded between 1951-1966. Besides a number of songs originally released as singles, this 2-CD set draws material from many classic LPs, most heavily from Songs of Glory (Columbia CL1424) and When the Saints go Marching In (Columbia CS9313).

Scruggs’ phenomenal lead guitar work (“I’m Working on a Road”) kicks off the project. Then, there is the band’s cohesive vocal quartet on songs like “Get in Line Brother” and “I Saw Mother with God Last Night” and “Give Me the Flowers.” I like the old hymns they sang such as “Give Mother My Crown” and “Jesus Savior Pilot Me,” the former attributed to the songwriting of Walter Bailes. Tom T. Hall, an up-and-coming songwriter at the time, wrote“A Stone The Builders Refused.”

As Rich Kienzle points out in the new liner notes, it is Flatt & Scruggs’ gospel material that transcends all else and stands as “an impressive facet of their musical legacy” and a “reminder of their peak creative years.” Both old favorites and some overlooked jewels comprise the canon. Two selections were previously unreleased (“He Will Set Your Fields on Fire” and “No Mother in the World Today”). Of the many original songs written by their wives, some of my favorites from their pens are “Joy Bells,” “No Hiding Place Down Here,” and “Get on the Road to Glory.” 

They also cover songs from The Carter Family (“I’m on my Way to Canaan’s Land” and “On the Rock Where Moses Stood”), the latter featuring the autoharp of Mother Maybelle Carter. Other covers come from J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers, Charlie Monroe (“When the Angels Carry Me Home”), and The Bailes Brothers. Band members like Curly Seckler, Everett Lilly, Benny Martin, Paul Warren, Jake Tullock, Howdy Forrester, and Josh “Buck” Graves. On the slight downside, Buddy Harman’s drums creep into the mix on seven tracks that are drawn from Flatt & Scruggs’ “When the Saints Go Marching In” LP.

Both Lester Flatt and Earl Scrugg have passed on. Together, Flatt & Scruggs’ impact on bluegrass goes without saying. Their names are synonymous with the classics of bluegrass. My hats off to Columbia/Legacy Records for re-releasing this Flatt and Scruggs material on CD.

"Foggy Mountain Gospel" is a compilation of unadulterated and authentic bluegrass gospel music from the 1950s, along with two releases from the 1960s, "Songs Of Glory" and "When The Saints Go Marching In." There are also a number of live recordings. These 52 tracks on two CDs remind us that Flatt & Scruggs’ gospel music was certainly as compelling as their secular material. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)