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The Earls of Leicester Pick Up Right Where They Left Off at the Ryman

by Rich and Laura Lynch

The Earls of Leicester brought the traditions of bluegrass to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee on July 07, 2022. Many believe that the Ryman is the birth place of bluegrass music. For over two decades the venue has celebrated this distinction with a summer series entitled Bluegrass Nights. The event usually starts in late June and runs through July with concerts on Thursday nights dedicated to the genre and The Earls were an ideal fit. It was a great return to the stage for the group after being sidelined by world events these past few years.

The Earls of Leicester at the Ryman.
(Photo Credit: Eric Ahlgrim / Courtesy of Ryman Hospitality)

Since 2006, Springer Mountain Farms has proudly partnered with the Ryman to support Bluegrass Nights and they sponsor a weekly raffle for a generous prize pack. In addition, prior to the main concerts, 650 AM WSM presents Pickin' on the PNC Plaza, featuring regional artists starting at 6 PM outside the entrance to the Ryman so fans are treated to a full night of music.

The Earls of Leicester formed in 2013 with the idea to preserve and promote the music of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs who are considered the founding fathers of bluegrass. Within a year of releasing their self-titled debut, the Nashville-based six-piece won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album and earned six awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

"Our goal is to go out and reacquaint everybody with the music of Flatt and Scruggs just the way they did it, which means fewer microphones and a good amount of choreography," says Jerry Douglas. "We're trying to put as much as we can into the music before it even reaches the speakers." Douglas is a 14-time Grammy Award winner who founded The Earls of Leicester and produces all their material. He shares that soon after hearing the Foggy Mountain Boys at age seven; he devoted himself to deconstructing their recordings, paying particular attention to the captivating Dobro work of Josh Graves. Jerry found other players who were just as dedicated and today we have The Earls of Leicester to carry on the rich traditions of bluegrass.

At the Ryman The Earls set-up was straight forward with just a few mics for the group to gather around. All six well-dressed players were proficient on their instrument and together they were a pickin' tour de force. Multi-part harmonies and quick quality solos were the order of the night. Their joy, passion and reverence were contagious. The band chatted a bit between songs but generally let the music do the talking.

East Nash Grass at the Ryman.
(Photo Credit: Eric Ahlgrim / Courtesy of Ryman Hospitality)

Thursday was a pickin' paradise that included classics such as "The Long Journey Home", a tantalizing "The Train That Carried My Girl From Town" and a sweet "All I Want Is You". They also touched upon the gospel elements of the genre with "You Can Feel It In Your Soul" and a stirring number that asked who will sing for me? The foot tapping "Big Black Train" along with the call and response of "Martha White's Theme Song" were winners as was their feisty closer "Foggy Mountain Breakdown".

At the Ryman, The Earls of Leicester presented a catalogue that is more than half a century old yet still so vibrant. The band painstakingly recreated the music of Flatt and Scruggs's Foggy Mountain Boys that speaks to longtime fans of the genre and more importantly brings the rich traditions of bluegrass to a new generation of listeners.

Opening for The Earls was East Nash Grass. The band started out as a part-time pickup gig that soon became a more serious endeavor. The group of some of Nashville's hottest young pickers played covers and originals at the Ryman. Their version of "My Window Faces The South" showcased their skills and beguiling vocal blends that surely won them some new fans who can currently check them out every Monday night at Dee's County Cocktail Lounge in Madison.

Another great discovery was Cole Ritter and The Night Owls who performed at Pickin' on the PNC Plaza prior to the main event. They played both their own material along with more well-known songs such as an outstanding take on "Ghost Riders in the Sky". Cole draws from a wide range of styles that melds blues, country, folk and rock. Cole Ritter and The Night Owls are gaining traction and were chosen as the winner of Belmont's University's "Country Showcase" in 2020 so be on the lookout for this talented group.

Cole Ritter and The Night Owls on the Plaza.
(Photo Credit: Eric Ahlgrim / Courtesy of Ryman Hospitality)

Related Links: For more information on THE EARLS OF LEICESTER and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - The Earls of Leicester | East Nash Grass | Cole Ritter and The Night Owls | Ryman Auditorium


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