RICKY SKAGGS & KENTUCKY THUNDER, “Music To My Ears,” Skaggs Family Records. 11 tracks.

Ricky Skaggs made Bill Monroe a promise, not long before the “father of bluegrass music” died in 1996, that he and others would keep the music alive.

And, not long after that, Skaggs returned to bluegrass in a big way after years of success in country music.

But bluegrass purists continue to be a little dismayed that country seems to be creeping back into his bluegrass.

They’ll note that “Music To My Ears” features bagpipes on one cut, a piano on another, an electric guitar on two and a keyboard on three.

But the rest of the listening audience will just concentrate on some good (mostly) bluegrass music.

As always, Skaggs pays homage to the old songs — Kirk McGee’s “Blue Night,” Don Stover’s “Things In Life,” Carter Stanley’s “Loving You Too Well” and Jimmy Driftwood’s “Tennessee Stud” (a tribute to the late Doc Watson).

But happily, he also introduces new material as well.

“You Can’t Hurt Ham,” which Skaggs wrote with Gordon Kennedy, pays homage to the ham that early entertainers like Monroe and “Uncle” Dave Macon took on the road with them and kept eating even when it got moldy.

And “Soldier’s Son” pairs Skaggs with Barry Gibb (yes, that Barry Gibb) in a duet on a song written by Gibb and two of his children — Stephen and Ashley.

That’s definitely a surprise.

The album also features an instrumental — “New Jerusalem” — written by Skaggs.

Gordon Kennedy, who co-produced the album with Skaggs, also co-wrote “What You Are Waiting For,” a song that advises people not to settle for less than they want; “You Are Something Else,” a song that says he’s seen the wonders of the world, but nothing like her; and “Nothing Beats A Family,” a song about the importance of family.

Another strong album by one of bluegrass’ top performers, a man who’s been playing the music for more than half a century now.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.SkaggsFamilyRecords.com.

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