As has been the tradition the past few years, the legendary Ricky Skaggs closed out the Springer Mountain Farms Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman in Nashville on July 31. Along with his ace band, Kentucky Thunder, the performer delivered a set that showcased his love of the tradition of bluegrass music -- and the artists that have gone on before him. It also served as proof of just how gifted of a performer Skaggs is and has been since his teenage years.
Much of the night, Skaggs tipped the tribute hat to the music of influences Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and former employers The Stanley Brothers. The latter received quite a bit of covers action during the night with “Loving You Too Well” and the classic “Mother’s Only Sleeping,” which the singer gave a powerful rendition of after talking about the memories of his late mother. In family-story mode, he shared tales about his father as he tuned the guitar between songs -- humorously allowing that he didn’t have a lot of patience for tuning.
And Skaggs delivered some more recent music as well, including “You Can’t Hurt Ham,” a cut from his 2012 album Music To My Ears, and music from his 2010 disc Mosaic, arguably the most musically adventurous album he has released since starting his Skaggs Family Records label in the mid-1990s. The singer was joined on stage by his wife Sharon White for a few songs to preview their upcoming disc Hearts Like Ours, their first-ever duets album. To cap the evening off on a rousing note, he performed a couple of his classic '80s hits, such as “Cajun Moon” and the Monroe evergreen “Uncle Pen.”
Skaggs effectively covered the past and the present, yet also continues to leave his mark on the future with the appearance of 10-year old fiddle virtuoso Carson Peters, who dazzled the crowd with his instrumental and vocal skills (especially on the Monroe classic “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”). He might be the sharpest young talent in the genre since an 8-year-old from Cordell, Ky., appeared on the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show in 1962. His name? Ricky Skaggs.
It would be nice at some point to hear Skaggs mix in a few more of his '80s country hits. Nobody has ever recorded traditional country music with as much flash, swagger and attitude as Skaggs did during his Epic years. But, Ricky Skaggs doing any kind of music is well worth the price of admission, and there were definitely no ticket refunds being asked for at the Ryman box office.