Splice Magazine

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Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

Greenville, South Carolina (May 29, 2018) – Due to severe weather issues, the outdoor show was brought indoors tonight, but that didn’t seem to affect anyone’s mood. The pounding of rain on the roof of The Peace Center for Performing Arts in Greenville, SC only added to the ambiance of the room as the legendary bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs was soon to take the stage.

The 2018 newly inducted Country Music Hall of Fame member brought his distinguished Kentucky vocals and musical stylings, along with his group, Kentucky Thunder, out for a night of fun good timing music with a positive message. With a career that started 53 years ago at the age of 10 with his first stage performance, along with 8 CMA Awards and 15 Grammy Awards, I was eager to see this truly talented and seasoned artist musically take us to a front porch of the backwoods country hills.

Stepping out onto the stage Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder was greeted with a room full of applause as they went right into “How Mountain Girls Can Love“.  The group played other notable tunes such as “Appalachian Joy“, and “Lonesome Night” in their first 6 songs not saying much of anything just steadily playing their finely tuned instruments to the crowd’s delight.  

After playing through the fast-paced”Pig in a Pen“, Ricky slowed down for a moment to give a funny story about how at the age of 15 years old he went on the road for the first time with Ralph Stanley. Giving a little history on himself, he talked about how that first road trip brought them to a small town in North Carolina picking up moonshine in the middle of the night not quite sure what was going on. He also mentioned how he became involved with Bill Monroe as they then covered his song “Toy Heart“. Throughout the night the group played some instrumental tracks as well, “Bluegrass Breakdown“, giving each member a chance to step out on their instruments for a featured moment in each tune.  

Mid-set Skaggs took a moment to introduce the members of his band, Mike Barnett (fiddle), Jake Workman (guitar), Jeff Picker (bass), Dennis Parker (guitar, mandolin, backing vocals), Russ Carson (banjo), and Paul Brewster (guitar, backing vocals), who Ricky noted had been with him for 23 years now. Stating that he likes to share the spotlight, Ricky gave way to Dennis who took over on lead vocals for a James Taylor cover of “Carolina In My Mind“, followed by Paul singing the Bill Monroe song, “Kentucky Waltz“.

Straying from the setlist for a moment, Ricky spoke about some of the issues in today’s world and how messed up it is stating that “the world is trying to find love everywhere except in God“.  As he introduced the unplanned song, “Love Does It Everytime“, he mentioned that the song held a message everyone should hear, but he felt that he needed to hear it himself this evening. The crowd drew quiet taking in every note played and word sung. As the song concluded Ricky jokingly said, “that’ll bring a tear to a glass eye“, commenting on the heartfelt lyric content.

Stepping it back up a bit, the band broke into a cover of Doc Watson‘s “Tennessee Stud“, followed by “Simple Life“, and “Can’t Shake Jesus“. Stepping back out of the spotlight again, Ricky brought Barnett to the forefront to entertain the crowd with an instrumental song of his, “Old Barnes” from his album, Portraits in Fiddles. The song ended with Dennis joining in on fiddle as well for an extended solo outro that had the crowd in a frenzy, enjoying the boot-stomping music.

The set was scheduled to end with the fun-timing “Black Eyed Suzie“, but fans were persistent in calling Ricky back to the stage for an encore. As Skaggs took back to the stage alone a fan yelled out a request for “Two Highways“. Ricky mentioned that he had not done this song in many years live and that this person must be a true longtime fan to call out that song. Entertaining the request, he attempted to play the song making it through a partial verse and broken chorus as he joked that at least he tried. Taking on another request for “Waiting On The Sun To Shine“, Ricky played through a verse of this song as well before being re-joined by a few band members on stage.

As Jeff, Dennis and Paul gathered around Ricky the quartet broke into an acapella version of “I’ll Fly Away“, filling the room with a mesmerizing vocal performance before the full group joined back in to close out the night with another Bill Monroe cover of “Get Up John“.

Truly a great night of music from that ended with Ricky Skaggs taking to the lobby to greet fans as they left for the night, to sign autographs and take photos with adoring fans.

Ricky Skaggs:

Splice is looking forward to catching up with Ricky Skaggs in a couple weeks at CMA Fest!

The Peace Center for Performing Arts:

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