My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Chris Austin

Album Review: Ricky Skaggs – ‘Solid Ground’

1995’s Solid Ground marks the beginning of the end of Ricky Skaggs’ major label career. The first of a pair of albums released by Atlantic Records, after more than a decade with Epic. It produced three singles, one of which failed to chart and the other two peaked outside the Top 40. He produced the project with some assistance from Brian Ahern.

Solid Ground attempts to combine the traditional country for which Ricky was well known with some more contemporary fare designed to appeal to radio. The pleasant but forgettable “Back Where We Belong” became the first single of Ricky’s career not to chart. The title track, which would have fit nicely on his previous album My Father’s Son, was released next and only climbed to #57. The third and final single, a cover of Harry Chapin’s 1974 pop hit “Cat’s In The Cradle”. At first glance it seems like an odd choice for Ricky Skaggs, but it fits well with country music’s storytelling tradition, and it was in fact, according to the song’s writers, inspired by a country song they had heard on the radio. It’s a story about a disengaged father who never has time for his son. By the end of the story, the father is an old man and begging his son to come home for a visit, but the son is too busy with his own life to oblige. It’s a departure for Skaggs stylistically and also thematically, since most of his other songs about family relationships are happy ones. It’s a bit of a stretch for Ricky, but he rises to the occasion nicely. I quite like it and wish it had risen higher on the charts than its #45 peak.

Bluegrass music played a huge role in the success of Ricky’s early 80s work for Epic, but he had become decidedly more mainstream by the decade’s end. On Solid Ground, however, he gives a nod to his bluegrass roots with a cover of Bill Monroe’s “Cry, Cry Darlin'”, which features harmony vocals by Vince Gill and Alison Krauss. “Callin’ Your Name” sounds like an old bluegrass number but it was actually a new song written by Larry Cordle and Chris Austin, and is one of the highlights of the album. Less effective is Ricky’s cover of the Webb Pierce/Mel Tillis rockabilly number “I Ain’t Never”, which doesn’t quite work. Rounding out the album are a couple of nice ballads, “Every Drop of Water” and “Can’t Control The Wind”.

Late career label changes generally do little to revive an artist’s flagging career, and Solid Ground was no exception. In addition to its failure to produce any radio hits, it also became the lowest charting album of Ricky’s career up to that point, landing at #72 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. His next and final major label release failed to chart at all; after that he returned to bluegrass full time and released a number of acclaimed independent releases, most of which charted higher than his last couple of albums for the majors.

Solid Ground is but a footnote in the Skaggs discography, and not an album that is well remembered today; however, it is nevertheless an enjoyable listen. It’s inexpensive and easy to find.

Grade: B+

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Remembering March 16, 1991

rebapeoplecoverNote: This article was originally posted on this day in 2009.  We’re publishing it again in case any of you missed it, as our tribute to the 10 lives lost 20 years ago today.  After you’ve read our post, be sure to read Ben Foster’s retro review of For My Broken Heart and from our Reba spotlight coverage, Megan Morrow’s concise review of the album that would be Reba’s musical tribute to her friends and co-workers who perished. – J.R.

In the early morning hours of March 16, 1991, a plane crashed into Otay Mountain in southern California. The crash, which left no survivors, occurred shortly after the Hawker Sidley aircraft had taken off from Brown Field, a private airport about 15 miles southeast of San Diego.  In addition to the pilot and co-pilot, Jim Hammon, Reba’s tour manager, and band members Kirk Cappello and Joey Cigainero, keyboardists; Paula Kaye Evans, background vocalist; Michael Thomas and Terry Jackson, guitarists; Tony Saputo, drummer, and Chris Austin, a vocalist who also played fiddle and acoustic guitar, were lost.

Reba herself had spent the night in San Diego to rest up and planned to meet her band the following night for a show in Indiana.  In the aftermath of the tragedy, she was scheduled to perform on the Academy Awards that year, only 9 days after the crash.  She sang the song ‘I’m Checkin’ Out’ from the Meryl Streep flick Postcards from the Edge.  Many music insiders criticized her for going back to work so quickly.

In the People magazine exclusive interview, she explained her decision to go forward with her career:

We were wondering what to do. I was wanting to cancel everything until July. I said, “I’m just not going to go back out there. It’s too much, I can’t do it without them.” I told [Jim’s wife] Debbie I had to make a decision. And she looked at me, just like Jim would have done, and said, ‘Are you thinking about quitting?’ ”

I said, “Well, no, but I don’t know when I can go back.” And she said, “Jim Hammon worked all this time to help get you where you are today. He’d kick your butt if you thought about quitting.” And I hugged her neck and said, “I needed that, you’re right.” I know Jim would tell me, “Now, Reba, you know those fans expect that out of you, and you can’t quit; you’ve worked too hard and too long, and you’ve got to get back up there.”

I’ve got a very good calm that Jim wants me to go back out there. I know Kirk and Joey and Terry and Tony and Chris and Michael and Paula Kaye, they’d want me to, too. So my first time to perform again is on the Academy Awards, and I’m going to sing a song called “I’m Checkin’ Out” from Postcards from the Edge. I’m going to do it for the band. They’re checking out. They’ve got a new place to dwell.

formybrokenheartReba then channeled her pain into her next album, the landmark release For My Broken Heart.  The album is a collection of songs of loss, loneliness, heartbreak, and pain.  And the grief surrounding the recording can be heard on every track, but particularly the album closer, ‘If I Had Only Known’.  Reba dedicated the entire album to her lost loved ones, but this song more than any other addresses the sorrow of losing someone all too quickly without ever saying goodbye:  ‘If I had only known/It was my last night by your side/I’d pray a miracle would stop the dawn/And when you smile at me/I would look into your eyes/And make sure you know my love for you goes on and on/If I had only known’.

To me, this is the mark of a true artist:  one who can face adversity and the worst heartache and then turn that tragedy into a timeless work of art.  The loss of these 8 talented musicians was a blow to the entire country music community, but their legacy lives on.  Every time someone takes solace in the songs on For My Broken Heart, their memory lives on.

Read more of this post

Remembering March 16, 1991

rebapeoplecoverIn the early morning hours of March 16, 1991, a plane crashed into Otay Mountain in southern California. The crash, which left no survivors, occurred shortly after the Hawker Sidley aircraft had taken off from Brown Field, a private airport about 15 miles southeast of San Diego.  In addition to the pilot and co-pilot, Jim Hammon, Reba’s tour manager, and band members Kirk Cappello and Joey Cigainero, keyboardists; Paula Kaye Evans, background vocalist; Michael Thomas and Terry Jackson, guitarists; Tony Saputo, drummer, and Chris Austin, a vocalist who also played fiddle and acoustic guitar, were lost.

Reba herself had spent the night in San Diego to rest up and planned to meet her band the following night for a show in Indiana.  In the aftermath of the tragedy, she was scheduled to perform on the Academy Awards that year, only 9 days after the crash.  She sang the song ‘I’m Checkin’ Out’ from the Meryl Streep flick Postcards from the Edge.  Many music insiders criticized her for going back to work so quickly.

In the People magazine exclusive interview, she explained her decision to go forward with her career:

We were wondering what to do. I was wanting to cancel everything until July. I said, “I’m just not going to go back out there. It’s too much, I can’t do it without them.” I told Debbie I had to make a decision. And she looked at me, just like Jim would have done, and said, ‘Are you thinking about quitting?’ ”

I said, “Well, no, but I don’t know when I can go back.” And she said, “Jim Hammon worked all this time to help get you where you are today. He’d kick your butt if you thought about quitting.” And I hugged her neck and said, “I needed that, you’re right.” I know Jim would tell me, “Now, Reba, you know those fans expect that out of you, and you can’t quit; you’ve worked too hard and too long, and you’ve got to get back up there.”

I’ve got a very good calm that Jim wants me to go back out there. I know Kirk and Joey and Terry and Tony and Chris and Michael and Paula Kaye, they’d want me to, too. So my first time to perform again is on the Academy Awards, and I’m going to sing a song called “I’m Checkin’ Out” from Postcards from the Edge. I’m going to do it for the band. They’re checking out. They’ve got a new place to dwell.

formybrokenheartReba then channeled her pain into her next album, the landmark release For My Broken Heart.  The album is a collection of songs of loss, loneliness, heartbreak, and pain.  And the grief surrounding the recording can be heard on every track, but particularly the album closer, ‘If I Had Only Known’.  Reba dedicated the entire album to her lost loved ones, but this song more than any other addresses the sorrow of losing someone all too quickly without ever saying goodbye:  ‘If I had only known/It was my last night by your side/I’d pray a miracle would stop the dawn/And when you smile at me/I would look into your eyes/And make sure you know my love for you goes on and on/If I had only known’.

To me, this is the mark of a true artist:  one who can face adversity and the worst of heartache and then turn that tragedy into a timeless work of art.  The loss of these 8 talented musicians was a blow to the entire country music community, but their legacy lives on.  Every time someone takes solace in the songs on For My Broken Heart, their memory lives on.

Read more of this post