Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
Sunday, Oct. 3, 2:35 p.m.
Banjo Stage
Reviewed by Mike Alexis

Bravely wearing a short-sleeve shirt, Ricky Skaggs took the stage with Kentucky Thunder, his stellar, all-star, seven-piece band that includes Andy Leftwitch (mandolin/fiddle), Cody Kilby (guitar), Mark Fain (bass), Darrin Vincent (guitar, mandolin), Paul Brewster (guitar), and Jimmy Mills (5-string banjo), braving the increasing winds and bone-chilling temperatures. Later on in the set he admits he "picked a bad shirt to throw in my suitcase in Nashville yesterday." He also sarcastically proclaimed before they began that he's "a man of few words," but we knew there would be stories told.

Skaggs and Thunder started things off with a raucous rendition of the traditional song "Black-Eyed Susie" and from there, there was no stopping. Peppering the set with a few Bill Monroe tunes, the band did a fast and devilish version of "Why Did You Wander?" while the wind picked up and whipped through the loudspeakers. A few songs later came the Lorin Rowan-penned "Soldier of the Cross" from Skaggs' lone gospel record, the one that, as Skaggs points out, "Paul sings like a girl on." When the chorus kicked in and Paul hit those high notes, the crowd got a good chuckle out of it. But the chuckles subsided and in actuality, Paul's voice lent a sweet sentimentality to the tender gospel tune. They ended with "Sally Joe" and received a roaring standing ovation.

For an encore Skaggs asked if we were ready for "the ultimate bluegrass love song" and they launched into a rousing rendition of Merle Travis's "I Got a Pig Home in a Pen." It got a good number of people on their feet and most sang along to the familiar tune. As evidenced by his varied set that day, Skaggs can expand the conventions of what it means to be a traditionalist, yet he never loses sight of the true spirit of bluegrass.

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