As their clever name, a tribute to two all-time greats, suggests, Earls of Leicester pay homage with a powerful bluegrass sound dedicated solely to the music of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and delivered by six of the genre’s modern masters. The supergroup of pickers — Jerry Douglas, Shawn Camp, Barry Bales, Charlie Cushman, Johnny Warren and Jeff White — will release their latest Rounder Records album, Live at the CMA Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame, on September 28th.
Recorded over a two-night stand in Nashville, the LP captures the Grammy- and IBMA-award-winning ensemble channeling the spirits of the two bluegrass legends and their Foggy Mountain Boys in spectacular fashion. There are live versions of songs from the band’s previous albums, as well as 14 the group has not previously recorded.
Among the more than two dozen cuts on Live is the oft-recorded traditional “White House Blues,” which recounts the 1901 assassination of 25th U.S. President William McKinley. Showcasing the individual prowess of each band member as well as the exhilarating combination of their artistry, “White House Blues” is both a nod to musical and political history and a thoroughly contemporary rendition of a tune that has been recorded numerous times, perhaps most notably by Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, who first popularized it in 1926. Bill Monroe, the Dillards, the Stanley Brothers, Merle Travis and Doc Watson also cut the tune.
The Earls of Leicester will perform “White House Blues” and several others at a special release-day event as part of next week’s Wide Open Bluegrass festival during the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) World of Bluegrass week in Raleigh, North Carolina. (All Wide Open Bluegrass attendees will receive a special offer to buy the CD along with a ticket to the band’s show at the Red Hat Amphitheater.)
“‘White House Blues’ is of special significance during this time in our country,” Jerry Douglas tells Rolling Stone Country. “This song delivers historic information of a tragic event and we have brought it up to date in a very respectable way. We look forward to performing it for the IBMA body.”
Following their Wide Open Bluegrass appearance, the Earls of Leicester will be in Greeneville, Tennessee, on September 29th.