ORANGE PARK – “A life full of music. That’s the story of Ricky Skaggs.” The fifteen-time GRAMMY award winner returned to the Thrasher-Horne Center last Friday with his talented bluegrass …
ORANGE PARK – “A life full of music. That’s the story of Ricky Skaggs.” The fifteen-time GRAMMY award winner returned to the Thrasher-Horne Center last Friday with his talented bluegrass band, the Kentucky Thunder, for a nostalgic and energetic performance.
From the foothills of Kentucky where he was born, Skaggs’ music career has taken him around the world and through a variety of sounds and genres – bluegrass, country, gospel and bluegrass again. It is rare for a musician to achieve such critical acclaim across multiple genres. There are few artists with similar versatility or such a diverse discography.
Skaggs had his musical upbringing with bluegrass music, which has been reminisced during his recent nationwide tour. Skaggs’ performance at Thrasher-Horne paid homage to bluegrass classics – some of which Skaggs grew up with, some of which he had a hand in producing.
During an interview a few days before the performance, Skaggs playfully recounted how genre-purists were unimpressed with his “flip-flopping” from bluegrass to country to bluegrass again. He said some of took it the wrong way: country fans felt like he was leaving them behind, and bluegrass fans felt like he was crawling back.
It was neither, Skaggs said. It was about coming home to the sound from how he began his musical journey.
I was admired by Skaggs’ determination, his persistence to evolve as a musician, his insistence on playing the sort of music that he wanted to.
The performance was a coming home moment for me as well. My grandfather was a bluegrass musician, but he suffered from arthritis and dementia. While I remember my grandfather fondly, I never had the chance to hear him play. I told Skaggs that I had never been to a bluegrass concert either. Skaggs shared why he’s continuously drawn to the bluegrass rhythms and melodies, 60 years after he struck his first chords on a mandolin.
“There’s something powerful about bluegrass music. It is impossible to not be tapping your foot,” Skaggs said.
He was right. The crowd clapped along with the pizzicato of the fiddle and sang along with lyrics. As Ricky Skaggs & The Kentucky Thundered tuned their instruments in between sets (“We tune because we care,” Skaggs said), shouts of “I love you, Ricky!” rang out through the auditorium.
The Kentucky Thunder had a melodic, electric performance. It was impossible to not be tapping your foot. It was impossible to not be thinking about home, wherever that may be for you.