Skaggs and Rice – Uncovering an Old Gem
“The future of music is about discovery, guiding people to the music they love.”
This statement represents the prevailing logic in what’s happening in music tech. A perfect recommendation engine would be fantastic, but I realized late last night that rather than discovery of what you will love next, it’s often about re-discovering something you already had. That gem lost in the shuffle of your bottomless iTunes collection and buried in your efforts to find the next great artist.
I’ve recently dived into paying for streaming services like Spotify and Rdio (I actually use both). With a great catalog and nice user interface, it complements, rather than replaces any “traditional collection (syncing to your phone for offline listening are perhaps their most compelling function). I’m not sure I’d go so far to say that these types of services are a comprehensive “defense” against piracy, but it certainly gives me less impetus to download something (though it’s possible I started out more willing to pay for my music in the first place).
So, looking for some Tony Rice last night, the album “Skaggs & Rice” popped up and it’s been on repeat for a few days. After the first pass, I got one of those tingly feelings.. It hit me that this is one of those perfect duets that seems to accidentally coalesce into an unassuming album. It’s silly to say anything about Tony Rice and Ricky Skaggs except that while masters in their own right, their chemistry on this LP is remarkable. It’s like when I rediscovered Darrell Scott and Tim O’Brien’s “Real Time” or listening to the recent duet from Chris Thile and Michael Daves. It’s rare that an entire album leaves you with chills.
While the playing is excellent, it’s not the star of the show, tastefully done but not excessive flashy. The beauty is mostly in it’s incredible simplicity. Always accessible, but the harmonies at times have the ability to surprise you even on a repeat listen. Hypnotic in a way that I rarely get excited about.
Like everything that Bruce Molsky has done, this album has a serious and unadulterated respect for the tradition, but while not very exploratory, it somehow makes old feel new again (not an easy feat). High and lonesome singing with a clean finish like a refreshing beer on a hot day. As a musician it makes you want to learn every tune and really get inside of them. Simple, classy, priceless.
Real stand out tracks for your reference: “Talk About Suffering”, “Bury Me Beneath The Willow”, and “The Old Crossroads”.
Suggestion: best heard with full attention and alone.. You’ll catch yourself making a fool of yourself trying to match Skaggs’ high parts (which is awesome).
If you have Spotify, this will take you to a playlist to the album in it’s entirety. If you don’t have Spotify, get it. It’s free and fantastic.
Realization: as much as I love pursuing new directions in roots music, sometimes I need a refresher to center myself and get a little perspective. This album is just what the doc ordered.