Ricky Skaggs goes solo for "Songs My Dad Loved"

Wed Jul 15, 2009 7:58pm EDT
 
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By Gary Graff

DETROIT (Billboard) - After "Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass" last year, Ricky Skaggs figured it was time to honor the man who introduced him to bluegrass and so many other kinds of music.

On September 15, Skaggs will release "Ricky Skaggs Solo (Songs My Dad Loved)" on his own Skaggs Family Records. The album features 13 tunes he was introduced to by his father, Hobert Skaggs.

"Some of these songs were my very first memories of music, of hearing my dad sing," Skaggs told Billboard.com. "If I could've gotten my dad into the studio, this is how I would've wanted him to sound -- kind of Iron & Wine meets Ralph Stanley."

Among the album's vintage songs, most of which are considered public-domain material, are tunes that were recorded by artists such as the Monroe Brothers, the Stanley Brothers and Clyde Moody. Skaggs adapted some to instrumental recordings he made in recent years but hadn't released. He laughed when he said that his father would probably listen to some of the arrangements and say, "There's just too much stuff on there, son."

Nevertheless, Skaggs kept most of the tracks "very modestly dressed ... just mandolin, guitar and two vocals, or two guitars and vocals, or one claw-hammer banjo or something."

The set truly is a solo venture, with Skaggs singing every part and playing every instrument himself. "I'm no stranger to doing overdubs and double-tracking stuff," he noted. "I really enjoyed it, and I was so happy with the way it came out I said, 'Y'know, I could do this again and would really have fun doing it.' I learned so much it would be fun to try it again."

As to the album's sales potential, Skaggs' expectations are modest. "I wasn't expecting anything out of it, really," he said. "I just thought it would be a cool, fun project and the family will like it. We can give it away at Christmas time and stuff. If this sells 25 copies to the family, that'd be fine with me."

Skaggs is preparing to work on another gospel album, which he plans to record in October or November with producer/songwriter Gordon Kennedy in Nashville. George Beverly Shea, the 100-year-old singer from the Billy Graham organization, is slated to join Skaggs for a new recording of "I'd Rather Have Jesus" for the set.   Continued...