Country Hits Bluegrass Style by Ricky Skaggs

In the 1980s, Ricky Skaggs was a major force in bringing back homespun traditionalism to a country music industry that had undergone near-total Urban Cowboy-ization. His currently circulating collection of rerecorded hits testifies that Ricky already had a clearly defined musical identity at the outset of his major-label launch in 1981—a fact that explains the impressive consistency of the mountain-and-backwoods-bred sound that remains his stock-in-trade.

His acoustic-based versions of old favorites offer peerless musicianship and comprise an often-grin-inducing listen, though one could argue that there’s a bit of water-treading going on—Country Hits Bluegrass Style is mostly a rehash of Ricky’s 2008 album for Cracker Barrel.

Bluegrass lovers hearing these cuts for the first time may find themselves wishing Ricky and company had kept things more traditional. Many tracks include piano, drums and pedal steel guitar—excellently played, but hardly the purist instrumentation that would have garnered approving nods from Bill Monroe, and not in line with the kind of full-scale bluegrassification that would have truly freshened these still-magnificent songs.     

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