Earl Scruggs, Toby Keith Issue Lively New Releases

Banjo master, dude with a 'tude have new CDs.

Earl Scruggs, who recently emerged from retirement, returned to record stores on Tuesday with his first new album in 17 years.

Earl Scruggs and Friends (MCA Nashville) finds the master of the five-string banjo paired with an likely cast of duet mates. Scruggs — who made bluegrass history as the banjo drive behind Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, as part of Flatt & Scruggs and as leader of the progressive Earl Scruggs Revue — may be best known for the theme to "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" from the movie "Bonnie and Clyde."

As the new CD makes evident, Scruggs continues to evolve in his music, working on material with artists ranging from Don Henley to Sting to Dwight Yoakam. Scruggs and Elton John deliver a countrified version of John's "Country Comfort," and John Fogerty sounds right at home on "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues." Other guests include actor Billy Bob Thornton, comedian (and banjo player) Steve Martin, Melissa Etheridge, Albert Lee, Paul Shaffer, Leon Russell, Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, Rosanne Cash, Randy Scruggs, Johnny Cash and Marty Stuart.

Toby Keith's feisty follow-up to his equally attitudinal How Do You Like Me Now?! is characteristically titled Pull My Chain (DreamWorks Nashville). Besides the title cut, Keith includes "I Wanna Talk About Me," "I Can't Take You Anywhere" and his current single, "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight." Keith received two CMA Award nominations this week, for Male Vocalist of the Year and for Song of the Year for "How Do You Like me Now?!"

Randy Travis released a live album this week on Image Entertainment. Songs on Live: It Was Just a Matter of Time include "Before You Kill Us All," "He Walked on Water," "Diggin' up Bones" and "The Hole." Footage of the concert, filmed earlier this year at the Sun Theater in Anaheim, California, is also available on VHS and DVD.

Confederate Railroad's new CD on Audium Entertainment is titled Unleashed, and it finds the former Georgia bar band mining familiar ground with such songs as "White Trash With Money," "She Treats Her Body Like a Temple" and "Still One Outlaw Left."

In its continuing 20th Century Masters: The Millennium series, MCA Nashville has issued a Mavericks volume featuring such hits as "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down," "What a Crying Shame," "Blue Moon" and "Dance the Night Away."