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No lead singer? No problem for The Earls of Leicester

City Winery, Boston, August 1, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

The Earls of Leicester have been in a bind that could have caused other bands to cancel the show. The bluegrass band's lead singer Shawn Camp has suffered from laryngitis for 11 days.

What to do? Put the vocals on the cords mainly of acoustic guitarist Jeff White and to a lesser extent Dobro player supreme Jerry Douglas.

Okay, so maybe White and Douglas aren't exactly as welcome to the ears as Camp, but they and band mates still soldiered on from one of America's leading bluegrass bands.

The Earls of Leicester (that name would be based on Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatts, an obvious touchstone for a band whose debut disc was a tribute to Flagg & Scruggs) are one of the leading bluegrass out there today, and this evening underscored why.

Yes, they missed Camp (he actually did take vocals on one song, the "Martha White" theme song, which lasted all of one minute and did not force him to overdue it vocally).

However, White was up to snuff with vocals a bit worn, but comfortable. There was also a tremendous amount of vocal support on harmonies especially from Douglas.

That was no surprise because this is a group built on the collective idea, not the musical abilities of any one member. And there was a lot to like.

Douglas was front and center as he should be. And it's not because of his musical resume. When not with the Earls, fronting his own band or doing session work, Douglas also could be found playing in Allison Krauss' Union Station (regular upright bassist, in fact, was absent on this night and touring with Krauss).

Douglas sure made his Dobro sing throughout the night. But given he has band mates like Charlie Cushman on banjo and Johnny Warren on fiddle (his father played fiddle with Flatt & Scruggs, and Johnny uses that very same fiddle today), there was no need to hog the spotlight.

There was a lot to like about this band concept with Warren and Cushman, for example, performing the standard "Flap-Eared Mule" as a duo.

A few well-known covers, such as "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" and Flatt & Scruggs' "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" (also made famous by the Grateful Dead), may have not put any new luster on the chestnuts, but The Earls breathed a lot of life into them."

They pretty much avoided their last album, "Rattle & Roar."

Perhaps this was not The Earls of Leicester best show, given their vocal predicament. But they soldiered on anyway in offering a most satisfying evening of bluegrass that keeps an eye on the past and keeping it alive today.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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