A Concept album concerning the relationships between fathers and sons, Ricky Skaggs’ My Father’s Son, released in 1991, is one of the only albums in his catalog not to showcase a heavy bluegrass influence. A minor hit, the album peaked at #68 and was his eighth and final release for Epic Records.
The album may not have sold well at retail, but it performed well on country radio, continuing the momentum he gained with Kentucky Thunder. Rollicking lead single “Life’s Too Long (To Live Like This)” peaked at #37 and featured a nice neo-traditional arrangement. “Same ‘Ol Love” peaked next, topping out at #12. A mid-tempo rocker, it made good use of electric guitars and featured a nice undercutting of pedal steel. “From The Word Love” was the least successful, only reaching #43. Showcasing a more progressive sound, the track retained some popper elements with backup singers on the chorus that were in stark contrast to Skaggs’ signature sound.
None of the singles from My Father’s Son were particularly memorable and they faded away shortly after finishing their runs on the charts, taking the album along with them. It’s a shame because the record has some very strong album tracks, some even better than what was released to radio.
Of the album tracks, my favorites include the multi- vignette story song “You Don’t Count the Cost” which Skaggs delicate delivers with rousing subtlety, the bluegrass-tinged “Simple Life,” which has wonderful fiddle work by Stuart Duncan and Bobby Hicks, and the gorgeous “Father Knows Best,” a play on words ballad about both our biological and heavenly fathers. Elsewhere Skaggs turns in a beautiful mandolin centric gospel number in the title track, one of the only nods to bluegrass on the whole project.
But two tracks stand above the rest. The first is a fabulous mainstream country duet Skaggs did with wife Sharon White, “Hold On Tight (Let It Go).” I love how well the two work together on the track and White adds a little something extra to the album I find very appealing. The other track is Skaggs’ cover of the Waylon Jennings classic “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line.” Vocally, Skaggs does a fabulous job of bringing a nice down home twang to the track and I love the neo-traditional arrangement. Jennings’ version of the song, and his deep growl, are legendary but Skaggs more than holds his own with his lighter and somewhat more boyish tone.
Overall, My Father’s Son is another solid album from Skaggs. There’s nothing wrong with the album at all, but the proceedings feel a bit too clean and tidy. I’d still recommend though, and used copies are available very cheaply.