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Skaggs fuses country and bluegrass on No. 1 album

“I went full time with bluegrass in ’96 and have tried to grow that market,’’ says Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs. “I went full time with bluegrass in ’96 and have tried to grow that market,’’ says Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs. ()
By Deborah Evans Price
Billboard / August 2, 2011

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You can go home again. Revisiting his country roots on “Country Hits Bluegrass Style,’’ Ricky Skaggs bows at No. 1 this week on the Bluegrass Albums chart. The new album, released through Skaggs Family Records/Fontana, features the 14-time Grammy Award winner putting a bluegrass spin on his ’80s hits like “Country Boy,’’ “Highway 40 Blues,’’ “Honey, Open That Door,’’ and “Heartbroke.’’

“I’ve made so many changes in my music since 1980,’’ Skaggs says. “I went full time with bluegrass in ’96 and have tried to grow that market. If I’d stayed in country music, I don’t think I could have ever had the kind of notoriety and the statesmanship I’ve received. I don’t say that pridefully. I just feel people respect what I’ve done.’’

With the 1996 passing of bluegrass founder Bill Monroe, Skaggs has indeed been carrying the torch. Skaggs first played bluegrass as a child in Kentucky and by his teens was performing in the legendary Ralph Stanley’s band. Embarking on a country career in the ’80s earned Skaggs eight Academy of Country Music Awards and eight Country Music Association honors, including entertainer of the year in 1985.

“Country music was good to me,’’ Skaggs says, noting that one of the reasons he decided to rerecord his country hits is because fans had been asking for them. “We’ve had so many requests. It’s hard to find the old records anymore. . . . ‘Heartbroke,’ ‘You’ve Got a Lover’ and ‘Wouldn’t Change You If I Could’ are songs that gave me a sound and a name.’’

Skaggs has released 12 albums on Skaggs Family, the label he launched in 1997. All of those releases - including 2010’s faith-based “Mosiac’’ - have been nominated for a Grammy; eight have won. According to Skaggs Family general manager Charlotte Scott, “Country Hits Bluegrass Style’’ is being serviced to bluegrass, Americana, and secondary country radio stations. Lead single “Country Boy’’ is available on Play MPE and the CDX radio sampler. The song was also Amazon’s free song of the day on July 20.

“Jesus said, ‘A good man even takes things from his treasure chest, things old and new,’ ’’ Skaggs says of the inspiration behind his current Treasure Chest national tour that kicked off March 18. “I’m doing my old country songs and new things, too. You get country, bluegrass and gospel.’’