Exclusive: Ricky Skaggs To Make First Country Homecoming In 20 Years In Nashville

Ricky Skaggs

While Ricky Skaggs’ voice and picking style have been affiliated primarily with bluegrass music for the past two decades, he launched a string of songs to the top of the country charts in the 1980s and mid-’90s, including “Honey (Open That Door),” “Lovin’ Only Me,” and “I Wouldn’t Change You If I Could.” In 1982, Skaggs earned both the Horizon Award and the Male Vocalist of the Year honors from the Country Music Association. Three years later, he had earned nine chart-topping singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, along with the CMA’s top honor, Entertainer of the Year.

On Sept. 2, he will briefly trade out some of his acoustic instruments for an electric guitar, to perform his first full country concert in 20 years at the Nashville Palace.

“It is reminiscent of the old clubs, the old Texas dance halls,” he tells MusicRow of the Nashville Palace, “the dance halls we played quite a bit back in the early days when we were getting started playing the country stuff, so it just seemed right and they were excited about it.”

He promises the approximately two-hour show will be packed with hits from his country albums, such as “Highway 40 Blues,” “Crying My Heart Out Over You,” “Uncle Pen,” and “Honey (Open That Door),” though Skaggs is admittedly excited about the chance to do some album cuts that are rarely featured in his sets, such as “(Angel On My Mind) That’s Why I’m Walkin’,” from his 1988 album Comin’ Home To Stay.

“Of course we can do songs like ‘Uncle Pen’ and ‘Highway 40 Blues’ with the bluegrass band, but it’s a little different when you are playing with a full electric band. We’ll have a steel guitar player and a full country band, so it’s the best of both worlds, really.”

Among Skaggs’ former band members joining him for the Nashville Palace show will be Keith Sewell, who, as a 19-year-old newcomer, toured as part of Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder band, a stint that lasted seven years. Sewell has also played for several years with the Dixie Chicks and Lyle Lovett. While there are no concrete plans for special guests to join him on the bill, Skaggs hopes to trade guitar licks with at least one musician who is slated to be in attendance, Johnny Hiland. “I’m going to see if he would want to come up and play something,” Skaggs notes. “That would be killer.”

“I really loved the music I was playing,” Skaggs says of his years working primarily in the country format. “It was a good career and really afforded me the abilities to come back to bluegrass and open my own record label [Skaggs Family Records] and all of that. That never would have happened without the kind of exposure and the name I built for myself in those early country days. It’s just time to celebrate that.”

When asked about the possibility of releasing a new country album, Skaggs isn’t as certain.

“We would love to do a new country record. I’ve got some really great songs that I’ve never recorded, but it’s kind of hard to sell records these days when people are getting songs for free. We as the artists, we make so little on streams, it’s like nothing. People are getting music for free because they think they deserve it. Art is not free. If you had to go buy a Van Gogh or a piece of art, if you see a beautiful piece of art that you love and you want to bring it to your house, you can’t just take it. Music is art and it should be paid for.”

What seems more likely is that Skaggs could soon bring his full country show to the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the revered Ryman Auditorium. Skaggs offered his bluegrass hits on the Ryman stage just last week, as part of the Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman series.

“I’d love nothing more than at some point in my career to get to do the Ryman with my country show. That would be fantastic. I’ve done some Grand Ole Opry shows there, where maybe we’d do just two songs on an Opry show, ‘cause it’s a multi-artist show, and it sounds so great in there. I’d love to be able to do a full-blown Ricky Skaggs show there sometime.”


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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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