Tony Trischka Expands Upon Lost Earl Scruggs Jams In Celebration Of The Banjo Icon’s 100th Birthday On New LP, Earl Jam: A Tribute To Earl Scruggs

Article Contributed by IVPR | Published on Friday, January 12, 2024

When banjo extraordinaire Tony Trischka opened his mail one afternoon during the height of the Covid lockdown, he certainly wasn’t expecting to get a visit from his old pal, the late great Earl Scruggs. Of course, it wasn’t Earl at the door, but a mysterious thumb drive full of rare recordings of Scruggs jamming with John Hartford, mostly taken from private gatherings at Earl’s house during the 80s and 90s. Naturally, Trischka began pouring over the more than 200 songs, transcribing the all-new solos, tones, and tricks from the man he’d been studying for over half a century. Inspired, he featured a number of these pieces as part of an overview of Earl’s career, premiering the concept at the venerable Joe's Pub in New York City. When Down The Road’s Ken Irwin heard a recording of the show, he and Trischka agreed there should be an album of this unique material.

Naturally, Trischka couldn’t wait to get his friends and colleagues together to flesh out this new material in the studio, and it wasn’t long before Earl Jam: A Tribute To Earl Scruggs—a brand-new album to be released late spring via Down The Road—came to be. “Whether or not you’re a banjo player, if you play bluegrass, you’re influenced by Earl. So it was easy to get world-class players on board,” says Trischka. Names like Stuart Duncan, Ronnie McCoury, and Darol Anger fill the album liner notes next to those of Molly Tuttle, Brittany Haas, Dominick Leslie, and Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, creating a cross-generational, genre-spanning band of, let’s face it, a heaping of the best pickers alive today.

This week, Trischka shared “Brown’s Ferry Blues,” the opening track of Earl Jam and the only tune on the album to feature another banjo player: Bela Fleck. This number, produced by Fleck at Parlor Studios in Nashville, not only gets two banjo breaks, but the steady bass thump of Mark Schatz, Sam Bush’s legendary mandolin chop, show-stopper Michael Cleveland on fiddle, and current bluegrass champion of the world, Billy Strings, on lead vocals and guitar.

“This song was written by Alton and Rabon Delmore and recorded by them in 1933,” says Trischka. “I heard Earl play it backstage at a show in Missouri in 2010. He had his banjo tuned to double C— that’s g, C, D, C, D—and as far as I know, he’d never used this tuning on a studio or live recording.” Although impressed by the alternate tuning, Trischka stayed true to the tune he’d been studying. “In the various jams with John Hartford that inspired this album, however, he always played it in standard G tuning, which is the setting you’ll hear here.”

Fans can stream or purchase “Brown’s Ferry Blues” here and pre-order or pre-save Earl Jam ahead of its late spring release on Down The Road right here.

Trischka played a Nashville doubleheader last week at the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium, both of which featured tunes and guests from Earl Jam. Read more about the Ryman show via Nashville’s Tennessean review in which Trischka’s playing alongside the great Del McCoury was noted as “creating an interplay that elevates the connectivity and quality of the song while also highlighting the players' unique strengths.”

Tomorrow, Trischka will bring his EarlJam band to Shelby, North Carolina, for the Earl Scruggs Center’s Remembering Earl show and on January 19th, Trischka’s 75th birthday will be celebrated in the company of an all-star list of friends (Michael Cleveland, Michael Daves, Jared Engel, Jacob Jolliff, Kenny Kosek, Steve Martin, Bruce Molsky, Joyce Carol Oates, Noam Pikelny, Sean Trischka, Abigail Washburn, Danny Weiss, and more) at City Winery in New York City—a birthday party unlike any other. While the show is sold out, a link to sign up for the waiting list and more information can be found here.

Earl Jam Tracklisting:

Side One

1. Brown’s Ferry Blues (feat. Billy Strings)

2. San Antonio Rose

3. Chinese Breakdown

4. My Horses Ain’t Hungry

5. Roll On Buddy

6. Freight Train Blues

7. Casey Jones

Side Two

1. Dooley (feat. Molly Tuttle)

2. Cripple Creek

3. Amazing Grace

4. Lady Madonna

5. Bury Me Beneath the Willow (feat. Vince Gill)

6. Shout Little Lulu

7. Little Liza Jane

8. Amazing Grace - Postlude

Catch Tony Trischka’s Earl Jam On Tour:

Jan. 13 - Shelby, NC - The Earl Scruggs Center - Remembering Earl

Jan. 14 - Floyd, VA - Floyd Country Store

Jan. 19 - New York, NY - City Winery - Tony’s 75th Birthday Bash

Jan. 26 - Raleigh, NC - Martin Marietta Center For The Performing Arts

Jan. 27 - Sykesville, MD - Common Ground on the Hill

Jan. 28 - Richmond, VA - The Tin Pan

Feb. 22-23 - Bellevue, WA - Wintergrass Festival 2024

Apr. 5 - Savannah, GA - Savannah Music Festival

For future dates and ticket information, please visit