Earls of Leicester
When the Earls of Leicester formed in 2013, their mission was ambitious but exact: To preserve and promote the legacy of bluegrass legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, in hopes of reviving the duo’s music for longtime admirers and introducing a new generation to their genre-defining sound. Within a year of releasing their self-titled debut, the Nashville-based six-piece far surpassed their own expectations, winning a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album and earning six awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
For Jerry Douglas—a 14-time Grammy Award-winner who founded the Earls of Leicester and produces all their material—first heard the Foggy Mountain Boys at age seven and subsequently devoted himself to deconstructing their recordings, paying particular attention to the captivating Dobro work of Josh Graves. “I remember sitting by the record player and trying to figure out what Josh Graves was doing,” he says. “There was no one to teach me, so I just had to listen.”
Douglas attended a number of Flatt and Scruggs concerts as a kid, and later played with each musician on separate occasions. Although his own prolific career as a musician and producer has kept him more than occupied over the years—including appearing on more than 1,600 albums, recording with the likes of Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, and Elvis Costello—Douglas was unable to shake his vision of one day revisiting the music of Flatt and Scruggs.
As Douglas points out, the most crucial factor in forming the Earls of Leicester was replicating the lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry that long fueled Flatt and Scruggs. In the end, Douglas landed on the lineup of Shawn Camp (Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton), Jeff White (Vince Gill, Loretta Lynn), Charlie Cushman (Jimmy Martin, Mel Tillis), Johnny Warren (son of Foggy Mountain Boys’ Paul Warren), and Barry Bales (Alison Krauss & Union Station)—and found himself beyond floored by their immediate synergy.
With the self-titled The Earls of Leicester arriving on New Year’s Day in 2014—and later amassing the band’s many accolades, including Album of the Year at the 2015 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards—the group released their acclaimed sophomore album Rattle & Roar in July 2016 and, at the 2017 IBMA Awards, took home the Entertainer of the Year prize for the third year in a row. But for Douglas, the most rewarding aspect of Earls of Leicester lies in playing for a live audience and witnessing their reaction firsthand. “One of the biggest payoffs for me is playing this music for younger people, and watching them fall in love with it,” he says. “And even better than that is having the older folks come up to me and tell me, ‘I never thought I’d get to hear that music again.’ That’s when I know when we’ve really done our job.”
On Earls of Leicester Live, that generation-spanning appeal is undeniable, with the band’s sheer delight and wonder as infectious as each indelible melody. And as the Earls of Leicester transport the audience into a much simpler era, the album ultimately fosters a tender connection with the past, a sense of promise for the future, and a newfound solace in the present moment.