Ricky Skaggs: Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass

By: Tim Newby

Honoring the Fathers: Tribute to 1946 & 1947 (Skaggs Family) does just that. Reaching back into the past to the man who first got the bluegrass ball rolling down from the Kentucky hills, this collection looks back at the roots of one of America’s musical pioneers, Bill Monroe, and the music he created over a half-century ago.

Honoring the Fathers includes twelve of the first songs ever written and recorded by the legendary Monroe and his band during their first years together in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry. Many of these songs would go onto define the burgeoning genre that would come to be named after Monroe’s band of the time, The Blue Grass Boys. While Monroe had been toying around with this sound for some years, it was not until 1945 after guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo player Earl Scruggs (and his innovative three-finger style of picking) joined Monroe’s band that classic sound that we recognize today was birthed. It is from this time that Honoring the Fathers draws its inspiration.

The album is bluegrass/country star Ricky Skaggs way of paying homage to his heroes and keeping alive the music that moved him so much in his youth. Skaggs describes his motivation, "I felt it was important to remind this new generation of Internet, iPod and iPhone listeners just who started the sound, so that we can always go back and listen to where it came from, glean from those sounds and ideas, and catch the fire that they had when they played music.”

And catch fire it does. Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder play each classic tune with an unabashed joy. Honoring the Fathers also helps draw a direct connection from the founding fathers to the bluegrass artists of today. Scruggs, whose unique style has been credited with giving bluegrass much of its distinct sound, plays on the opening track "Goin’ Back To Old Kentucky." While second generation bluegrass legend Del McCoury lends his voice to the closing song "The Old Crossroad." For Skaggs having the two made perfect sense. "Honoring the fathers is always a good thing to do," he says. "It keeps us all humble and grateful to the ones that came before us who paid a great price just to keep the music alive."

JamBase | Edge of Tradition
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[Published on: 6/16/08]

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