Personnel: Ricky Skaggs (mandolin).
Audio Mixers: Lee Groitzsch; Brent King.
Recording information: Skagg's Place Studios, Hendersonville, TN; The Ample Room, Brentwood, TN.
Photographer: Erick Anderson .
Since he came on the scene playing with Flatt & Scruggs in 1969, Ricky Skaggs has been a leader in the field of progressive bluegrass, but he's never forsaken the music's deep roots or traditional style. He shows off how well he can bridge those two worlds on Music to My Ears, a record that's traditional and progressive at the same time, without ever sounding forced. The pickers and singers he's chosen for the album are the best Nashville has to offer, and the arrangements are full of surprises. Bee Gee Barry Gibb joins Scaggs on lead vocals for "Soldier's Son," a song steeped in the traditions of protest music and the Celtic folk tradition. Gibb wrote it, but its message is one of lamenting the death of poor soldiers paying the ultimate price for human foolishness. Andy Leftwich's fiddling and Skip Clevenger's bagpipes and pennywhistle give the track a timeless Celtic feel. Skaggs flatpicks his guitar in the style of Doc Watson on "Tennessee Stud," a tribute to his fallen friend. Like Watson, Skaggs brings the lyric to life with his expressive vocals. Electric guitar and piano aren't frequently heard in bluegrass, but Skaggs manages to seamlessly integrate both here. "What Are You Waiting For" is an aching country/bluegrass ballad with subtle keyboards complementing Skaggs' sparse mandolin fills and Gordon Kennedy's electric moving between slide guitar fills that sound like pedal steel and short, subtle, rock-influenced leads. Skaggs plays more traditionally on "You Can't Hurt Ham," a playful tribute to down-home cooking that features Justin Moses' fine banjo picking as well as Skaggs' tasteful mandolin and Carter Stanley's "Loving You Too Well," which showcases Skaggs' soulful vocal style. The title tune is an inspiring prayer for peace with an uplifting chorus that will have you singing along in no time. ~ j. poet