Ricky Skaggs – Solo: Songs My Dad Loved
Ricky Skaggs – Solo: Songs My Dad Loved (Skaggs Family)
Country music tributes to one’s father seem to be in the air. Tanya Tucker’s My Turn provides a gritty set of her father’s favorites, and Rosanne Cash’s The List cherry-picks a dozen songs from a list of one hundred country essentials given to her by her father in the 1970s. In both cases the artists had to dig deeply within themselves to understand not only what the songs meant to their fathers, but also what they meant as an inheritance and how they could be co-owned by both father and child. That same conundrum faced Ricky Skaggs as he mapped out this tribute to the songs his father loved, and he took the highly personal approach of producing the album on his own.
Though technically a solo work, as Skaggs sang and played everything here, a more accurate attribution would be to the All Ricky Skaggs Band. Rather than performing as a solo singer with his guitar, Skaggs overdubbed himself singing harmonies and playing multiple instruments, including guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass and piano. Built up as acoustic one-man-band arrangements, this isn’t the hot-picked bluegrass of Kentucky Thunder, but a more relaxed approach to music making. Skagg’s explores his parental heritage, but also his own musical roots in a very personal extension of 2008’s Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947.
The song list is heavy on traditional numbers, including the instrumental fiddle tunes “Colonel Prentiss” and “Calloway.” Skaggs’ own instrumental, “Pickin’ in Caroline” features banjo playing that’s gentle and introspective. One song each by Fred Rose (“Foggy River”) and Roy Acuff (“Branded Wherever I Go”) speak to the foundational importance of the Acuff-Rose publishing company, and Ralph Stanley’s “Little Maggie” links to Skaggs’ teenage membership in the legend’s bluegrass band. This is superbly selected collection of songs, many of which fall outside the standard festival repertoire.
Singing and playing on his own, without the band, without the burden of living a bluegrass legend, without anything on his mind but his father and the lasting inspiration of his music, Skaggs is freed to embrace this material with a closeness that’s harder to locate in a crowded, spot-lit setting. Fans will enjoy the opportunity to hear Skaggs close-up in this stripped-down setting, and those who love country music’s early years will doubly enjoy the songbook.