Posted tagged ‘ricky skaggs’

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

October 8, 2012

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.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS, “A Skaggs Family Celebration: Volume Two,” Skaggs Family Records. CD 10 tracks, DVD 26 tracks.

November 21, 2011

“A Skaggs Family Christmas” is a two-fer — a Christmas CD and a DVD for one price.

It comes six years after 2005’s “Volume One.”

But it’s worth the wait.

The CD makes good background music during the holidays as well as some good sing-along time in the car. The two-hour DVD makes for a pleasant evening of TV watching around the Christmas tree.

It’s not exactly a bluegrass package. There’s bluegrass on it, but you’ll also hear some country, western swing and even a little classical music with The Nashville Strings.

The CD features 10 tracks — a mix of studio and live recordings — of Christmas songs.

The DVD was shot in Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium last year as the final stop on the the Skaggs Family’s eighth annual Christmas tour.

It features Ricky Skaggs, The Whites (his wife, Sharon, father-in-law, Buck, and sister-in-law, Cheryl), the Skaggs adult children (Molly and Luke) and niece (Rachel Leftwich), Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder, and The Nashville Strings.

The songs include a mixture of secular and sacred carols.

It’s a good package for Skaggs’ fans as well as fans of country Christmases.

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RICKY SKAGGS, “Country Hits Bluegrass Style,” 14 tracks. Skaggs Family Records.

September 12, 2011

The theory behind Ricky Skaggs’ “Country Hits Bluegrass Style” is that he’s remade his country hits from the 1980s into bluegrass songs.

But bluegrass traditionalists might take issue with that.

Pianos, accordions, steel guitars, drums and the Nashville String Ensemble don’t really say bluegrass to most traditionalists.

Maybe it’s bluegrass-style with country instruments.

But whatever you call it, “Country Hits Bluegrass Style” is a good “greatest hits” package from the guy Chet Atkins once said “single-handedly” saved country music.

Compared to everything else that was coming out of Nashville 30 years ago, Skaggs’ music sounded downright retro. And his 1984 version of Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen” was definitely bluegrass — the first bluegrass song to top the country charts since Flatt & Scruggs’ “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” in 1963.

This collection includes Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ “Don’t Get Above Your Raising” and “Crying My Heart Out Over You,” Larry Cordle’s “Highway 40 Blues” and Mel Tillis’ “Honey (Open That Door).”

You’ll also hear “Heartbroke,” “You’ve Got A Lover,” “Cajun Moon,” “He Was On To Something (So He Made You),” “Lovin’ Only Me,” “I Don’t Care,” “Country Boy,” “I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could” and “Somebody’s Prayin’.”

Here’s the deal: “Country Hits Bluegrass Style” is a good album, one that Skaggs’ legions of fans should want.

But if you’re offended by drums, pianos and string ensembles, be warned.

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THE ROYS, “Lonesome Whistle,” Rural Rhythm. 11 tracks.

March 14, 2011

Not many Canadian bluegrass bands have made it in the United States, but The Roys have a good shot at stardom.

Lee and Elaine Roy were actually born in Massachusetts, but the family later moved to New Brunswick, Canada.

The brother-sister act has been performing since each was 10, and they’ve honed a great harmony sound in the years since.

The two share lead singing duties on the album, but Elaine Roy’s voice packs the most emotional punch.

The Roys wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs on their national debut album. And they brought in Ricky Skaggs & members of his Kentucky Thunder for help in the studio.

Skaggs and The Whites provide harmony support on “That’s What Makes It Love,” a song about a single mother working two jobs, an old man caring for his wife of 60 years and Jesus.

“Coal Minin’ Man,” the first single off the album, tells the story of a third-generation miner, who’s “hurtin’, but he don’t complain.”

“Right Back At You” finds a woman deciding that it’s time to get back to living, a year after he broke her heart.

“Nothin’ I Can Do About That Now” and “Lonesome Whistle” are both train songs. The former finds the train taking a lover away and the latter finds a different train bringing a dead lover home from war.

“Give A Ride To The Devil” warns that if you “give a ride to the devil, someday he’s gonna wanna drive.”

“I Wonder What God’s Thinking” finds people on the street passing a hungry 15-year-old girl without helping and the singer wondering “what God’s thinking when He looks down on us.”

It’s a strong debut by a good duo.