The title of Ricky Skaggs latest suggests not only a reverence for bluegrass' past but the aspiration to affect its progress. Both are achieved, with the emphasis on tradition. Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder kick it off with a rousing version of "Shady Grove," which spotlights 19 year old fiddler Andy Leftwich on mandolin.
The influence of the Stanley Brothers is acknowledged with "Your Selfish Heart" and "The Old Home," while a nod is also given to Bill Monroe ("Mother's Only Sleeping") and Flatt and Scruggs ("Dim Lights, Thick Smoke" and "Sawin' On The Strings"). Skaggs also revisists the Boone Creek tune "One Way Track" and closes with the traditional "Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms." On some tunes, Skaggs strays a bit from the expected bluegrass path. His original instrumental "The Road To Spencer" has an Irish feel to it, complete with such non-traditional bluegrass instruments as Celtic drum, Celtic accordion and pennywhistle.
"Too Far To Fall," written by Skaggs' former country bandmate Keith Sewell, features Skaggs on baritone electric guitar and a thumping bass line by Mark Fain that at one point emulates Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walking." Another interesting choice is Paul Overstreet's "Halfway Home Cafe," which has more in common with Skaggs' country hits of the '80's than his recent bluegrass work. It was in the '80's that Ricky Skaggs was hailed as a savior of country music as a leader of the neo-traditionalist movement. With this release Skaggs seems poised to lead bluegrass into the new century.