EARL SCRUGGS and his boys were at the Performance Center last week in what has to be one of the real high points of the P.C.'s career so far. John Lincoln Wright and the Sourmash Boys, who have been there several times before, came on first and under their strange assemblage of hats--ten-gallon, cowboy, Clyde Barrow--played their set surely and professionally. But somehow, it seemed like a Cambridgey re-write of basic blue-grass, even without the smooth easy transitions and just damn inspired playing of the Scruggs for contrast. There's something a bit flat about John Lincoln Wright's voice--it gets the job done but doesn't sound like it loves to--as the group just plunges on from one steeled-up blue-grass tune to another.
The Earl Scruggs Revue also play rock-electrified blue- grass, but they keep the heart in it, they use the new stuff to bring the heart out more. You have to be amazed at Earl's adaptability: from being a plain Carolina picker he came to see the inevitable musical future, and made it work. The contrast and the harmony between the different elements of the music are standing right there on the stage: Earl in the middle, dark, carefully combed hair looking a bit sheepish for covering his ears, face full of a quiet pride and the air of hanging back a bit on the vocals in favor of his accomplished banjo--and his sons. One of them, who introduced the songs, has a pleasant Dylanesque drawl to his voice, and both of them can, as they say, play the flat flip out of a guitar. The audience got off most on the inevitable Foggy Mountain Breakdown, and on Friday they finally made the Revue come back twice to face those massed lights and hanging planters. The Scruggs had people moving.