Fans who see the Skaggs Family Christmas tour this holiday season are in for a treat, says its' namesake -- Country legend Ricky Skaggs. He says it's something his family has been doing for years, whether on stage or not.
"We've done this in our living room for years, at holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas," he tells Billboard. "There's always instruments around the house, and there's always something going on."
The idea for the first Skaggs Family Christmas tour and album in 2005 came out of necessity, as the singer recalled. "I was on the road with Kentucky Thunder, my band, and we were opening some shows for the Chieftains. We got to Atlanta, and Sharon and I had brought Molly and Luke with us, our two youngest kids. We got there for the show, and the band was coming from Nashville."
The afternoon took a very interesting turn. "About an hour into the trip, their bus engine caught on fire. So, they weren't going to make it to sound check, and they didn't know for sure if they were going to make it for the show. So I panicked a little bit. I asked Sharon if she could help me do some songs, and she said she could. Molly said 'Well, Dad, I can help you too. I can do some clawhammer banjo stuff and I can sing harmony with you guys like we do at home. We also had a guy that was going to be playing with us, he drove his van down and played accordion and penny whistle. We had some instrumentalists there - Jeff Taylor, Sharon, Molly, and myself. The crowd loved it. It was amazing to see."
A light bulb went off in the head of Ricky's booking agent, who was there that night. "He said 'If you guys could work up some Christmas songs, I could book that show.' So we dared him to get some dates for us, and next thing I know he came back with about six to eight Christmas shows. We pulled the family all together - the Whites, me and Kentucky Thunder, and added a piano player and a percussionist, and started rehearsing these songs. We wanted to find some traditional songs, but some new songs as well. That's how A Skaggs Family Christmas got started back in 2005."
Six years later, Skaggs and family are back with a new tour, as well as a new album. Volume Two is quite a package, containing a DVD that includes one of the performances of the show. "We did it at the Ryman in Nashville two years ago," he says. "It's shot in high definition, and is just beautiful. We've got that as a bonus with the CD. I hope people love it when they get it."
Some of the disc's older songs hold a special place in the singer's heart, such as "Light Of The Stable," which was a song he performed with Emmylou Harris on her 1979 album by the same title. He also covers himself with an updated version of "Children Go," which originally appeared on his 1983 disc Don't Cheat In Our Hometown. Skaggs admits that he never really thought of the tune as a Christmas song - until some of Music City's top radio programmers began spinning the tune.
"It was never really recorded as a Christmas song, but the folks here in Nashville started playing it as a Christmas song," he confirms. "Gerry House, Chuck Morgan, Eddie Stubbs, and all the guys at WSM started playing it as well. I guess because of the line talking about the little bitty baby, people took that as a Christmas song."
The album also contains some new material from daughter Molly and son Luke. Ricky beams with fatherly pride in talking about his children, saying "I couldn't be more proud of seeing how they have grown from 2005 to 2011. It's been amazing. They have worked so hard, and their singing ability has gotten stronger - as well as their playing ability. They are great kids, and I am so proud of them. It's great to be able to go out on the road with them, and see them be comfortable on stage with the band, it's amazing to see what kind of men and women they have become."
In 2012, Skaggs will put the final touches on his autobiography, and will look to possibly release a new bluegrass album, as well as a live collaboration with Bruce Hornsby.
Remaining Tour Dates:
Dec. 2: Knoxville, TN // 8:00 pm
Historic Tennessee Theatre
Dec. 10: Wabash, IN // 7:30 pm
Dec. 11: Van Wert, OH // 4:00 pm
Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio
Dec. 17: Franklin, NC // 7:30 pm
Smokey Mountain Performing Arts Center
Dec. 22: Nashville, TN // 7:00 pm
Schermerhorn Symphony Center