My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Hobert Skaggs

Album Review: Ricky Skaggs – ‘Solo: Songs My Dad Loved’

After a series of vibrant and critically acclaimed bluegrass albums on his own Skaggs Family Records, In 2009 Ricky Skaggs decided to go back to the very earliest roots of his musical career – the old songs he heard at home. A very personal labor of love sees Ricky playing every instrument (mostly guitar, mandolin, and banjo with the odd bass and even piano) and singing all the harmony vocals. It reveals what a consummate musician he is, yet there is never a hint of showing off, even on the three tasteful instrumentals.

Ricky Skaggs and his fans ultimately owe a major debt to Hobert Skaggs, who gave the five year old Ricky his first mandolin, and taught him his first chords. Here he repays the favour by recording a very personal tribute. Sharing it with the rest of us offers a nostalgic reminder of the past, while bringing to life songs which are mostly at their heart timeless.

Reproaching a cold-hearted lover, the gently rhythmic ‘Foggy River’ is a Fred Rose copyright redolent of 1940s/50s country music. A subdued version of the Ralph Stanley classic ‘Little Maggie’ with characteristic banjo accompaniment reminds us of Ricky’s teenage stint in Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys, encouraged by his father.

Roy Acuff’s ‘Branded Wherever I Go’ is an ex-convict’s lament pre-dating the better known Haggard songs on the same theme. With its closely multitracked harmonies, this is a favourite for me. I also love the melodic and plaintive ‘What Is A Home Without Love’. The spiritual ‘The City That Lies Foursquare’ which is partly acappella is another great sounding track, and sounds a little more menacing although the subject is eternal life in heaven.

‘Sinners You Better Get Ready’ sounds quite cheery despite the dire warning of the lyric against forthcoming death and judgment. ‘This World Is Not My Home’ is similarly upbeat about the thought of death and what comes after. ‘Green Pastures In The Sky’ is quieter and more subdued in its steadfast declaration of faith in times of trial.

The most left-field inclusion, ‘I Had But 50 Cents’ is rather fun and redolent of the 1930s or earlier (the lyrics actually date back to the 1880s) with its story of a man with not much cash and the woman he takes out to eat, only to find she has a really big appetite. The restaurateur is not impressed when it comes time to pay. A very catchy tune and the novelty lyrics make this quite a change from the generally serious mood.

I can see why Ricky’s dad loved these songs. I love them too. While it’s not for everyone , this album is a charming evocation of evenings in a rural home in the first half of the 20th century with family members playing their favourite tunes to while away the dark nights.

Grade: A-