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