CD Review - Ricky Skaggs "Music to my Ears"

The Master releases an album that truly is Music to the Ears

I’m aware that Ricky Skaggs is something of a LIVING Legend in Bluegrass circles, but to me he was a one hit wonder and purveyor of Country Boy, which haunted the British airwaves for months. When I received this album, I was slightly less than impressed.

Two hours later, I’d played it three times, leaving me smiling and in a pretty damn good mood - not my normal habitat these days.

I’ve spent the last week trying to work out why I like MUSIC TO MY EARS so much and I can only guess it’s because Ricky Skaggs has surrounded himself with some exceptional musicians, kept the tunes simple but catchy, and the songs all bore into the brain like little lasers.

Blue Night; which opens the album, is a perfect example. The fiddle playing is exceptional but still easy on the ears, not scritchy-scratchy like the traditional format which sends me running for cover. And, Skaggs’ voice is as warm and honeyed as a Georgia sunset.

Title track Music to my Ears is something of a gospel song, but very pleasant. It had me singing along without realizing what I was doing, which is both the mark of a great song and embarrassing when you are on public transport.

I only knew Tennessee Stud from Johnny Cash’s version so hearing Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder take it back to Doc Watson’s original was illuminating and sounded as different as it’s possible to be. I loved it.

One of the finest and most memorable songs on MUSIC TO MY EARS is Soldier’s Son which will stretch your heartstrings like a dead weight as the fiddle and guitars enhance the gentlest bagpipe playing I’ve ever heard on a song, co-written by Skaggs and Bee Gee Barry Gibb.

One of my constant criticisms is that Bluegrass tunes and songs are too ‘simplistic’ but Ricky firmly puts me in my place with the album closer Nothing Beats a Family. It's as beautiful as it is sentimental, with all of the instruments combining to enhance that honeyed voice and a set of lyrics that left me misty-eyed.

With music this good, I just might be becoming a convert.

PS If I was trawling the racks in a Record Shop the cover alone would make me want to pick it up and explore the contents.

Released JANUARY 21st

Views: 367

Tags: Bluegrass, Ricky Skaggs, Tennessee

Comment by Daniel T on December 6, 2012 at 11:24pm

"SOMETHING of a living legend" , now there's an understatement :)   If you find "Bluegrass" too simple, you might want to check out Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Tony Trishka, Sam Bush, Chris Thile and The Punch Bros. , Casey Driessen just to start with. These folks take "Bluegrass" into "Jazz" territory. If you like them, it'll lead you into other artists that have done things with Bill Monroe's formula that he never could have imagined. Happy Listening

Comment by Harrisonaphotos on December 7, 2012 at 12:27am

Daniel; I've tried to listen to a couple of the artists you mention and it's still not for me. You can't like everything.

Comment by Daniel T on December 8, 2012 at 2:42am

Sorry those suggestions didn't help you sir. You're correct, if it doesn't move you , it just doesn't move you. No right or wrong, just personal taste. Glad you did the review. If Mr. Skaggs can make a convert out of you it must be good.And bagpipes pull at my heartstrings anyway. Scott-Irish stock. There's a lot of other great stuff to find on ND, hope you keep enjoying the site. And I'm guessing your Avatar is a t-shirt? It's great! Gotta get me one. Peace across the pond.

Comment by Harrisonaphotos on December 8, 2012 at 5:30am

yes it is a t-shirt; one I'm hoping Santa brings me

Comment by Bill Hallock on December 11, 2012 at 9:39am

If you had been a fan since the early '80's, you'd know that Ricky Skaggs is THE man that bluegrass AND country artists follow when they want to know how much better they have to bring on their musical game! If you had done your research, you'd remember some of his duets with everyone from Doc Watson (the man who did Tennessee Stud and the legend that Ricky did this song for) and Earl Scruggs (remember HIM?) to Bruce Hornsby.  I'd suggest you listen a LOT more to Ricky Skaggs...... if you had done that, your review wouldn't be quite so lacking in depth, info and honest appraisal.

Comment by Harrisonaphotos on December 11, 2012 at 9:50am

Bill free to offer me as much advice as you like - it won't make a ha'porth of difference my friend. 

     If you so YOUR research you will see that Ricky Skaggs never had a chart hit in the UK where I live, so my review has as much 'depth' as it needs - this is a CD review not a biography and I have no intention of listening to any back catalogue as I have another 9 CD's sitting in front of my waiting to be reviewed plus a 1,000 interview to type, a second to plan and two concerts to go to by Sunday - all completely different musical genres.

     Perhaps I should just concentrate on one type of music to make my life so much simpler.

Comment by Bill Hallock on December 11, 2012 at 12:18pm

Alan-I guess you are VERY removed from the bluegrass scene here in the U.S!!! That explains a lot!  We here in the states get to hear so much more bluegrass and country than probably makes it across the pond, and we tend to be very protective of it.  No nastiness on my part intended toward you..... I write reviews for PrescriptionBluegrassRadio and I had done my review of this same CD several months back.  It is posted here on ND or  I would love to hear what YOU think of my ideas on Mr. Skaggs.  The more input the better! Maybe theres something I missed.........

Comment by Jim Moulton on December 18, 2012 at 5:13am
Comment by Jim Moulton on December 29, 2012 at 8:27pm


   Welcome with your bluegrass insight to No Depression,not enough of it, I'll check out your thoughts on your review


-Put my url above for you

Comment by Bill Hallock on December 29, 2012 at 11:02pm

Thank you Jim!   I love writing these reviews, and I feel blessed that my buddy, Brian McNeal, of Prescription Bluegrass, gives me the chance to be heard and that ND carries us, too. I just wish I could do it full time!!!  I'm always up for input, Jim, so if you see where I'm way off base on something... let me know! I've been known to be wrong before.........


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.