Before returning to bluegrass in 1996, Ricky Skaggs had a hugely successful career as a mainstream country artist throughout the 1980's and early 1990's. In a time overrun with artists striving for pop crossover success, Skaggs' high lonesome sound and bluegrass roots prompted Chet Atkins to proclaim him as the man you would save country music. "The High notes," recorded exclusively for Cracker Barrel, takes many of those mainstream hits and resets them in, as the cover proclaims, "a bluegrass perspective."
Number one hits like "Heartbroke," Highway 40 Blues," "Honey (Open That Door)" and "Country Boy" fit well in bluegrass-style arrangements while still holding to their original, familiar arrangements. The songs are performed on traditional acoustic instruments like mandolin, guitar, fiddle and banjo, although several tracks feature drums and pedal steel guitar shows up on one track. The bluegrass style is deviated from only two of Skaggs' later hits, "Cat's In The Cradle" and "Somebody's Prayin'," which feature string sections and, in the case of the latter, piano. "The High Notes" illustrates the depth of Skaggs' time in mainstream country and shows that he didn't get too far above his raisin' while he was there.