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Ricky Skaggs spreads the word

Tremont Baptist Church, Boston, April 16, 2005

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Ricky Skaggs was obviously in quite a comfortable setting for him - the Tremont Baptist Temple. And not only did he spread the word about bluegrass music to the faithful, but he also found plenty of time to expound on The Word.

Skaggs and his ace backing band Kentucky Thunder turned in another strong performance veering more towards bluegrass and gospel music with just a tinge of country thrown into the mix (the upbeat sounding and message of Harley Allen's "Spread a Little Love Around."

Skaggs, of course, started in bluegrass, but had a period in the '90s where he did quite well as a country artist, only to decide to return to his roots.

Skaggs also started the label that bears his name, putting out a slew of fine bluegrass music.

And Skaggs showed no signs of letting down. He was happy doing some of his material along with songs of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers.

He tossed in several songs from his latest disc, "Brand New Strings," another meaty collection that won a Grammy in February for best bluegrass album. Skaggs plays a great mandolin, but he did not have to be center stage throughout the 80-minute show. In fact, he often received a boost from backing singer Paul Brewster, who also plays acoustic guitar, ace fiddler Andy Leftwich, banjo man Smilin' Jim Miller and acoustic guitarist Cody Kilby.

Each, plus a few other band members played key roles in making the music come alive.

Skaggs was full of praise throughout, especially given the setting in the old building. Skaggs was not afraid to wear his Christian heart on his sleeve, proclaiming his love of Jesus. Skaggs said Jesus spoke through him via his musical abilities.

At one point, Skaggs even asked those who were interested in being saved to rise. About 10 people did, and Skaggs proceeded with a prayer.

Of course, Skaggs played many religiously-themed songs, including "Are You Afraid to Die?" and a good instrumental, "I Corinthians 1:18."

This wasn't Skaggs' typical performance in a nightclub, perhaps also given that it was a fundraiser for a Christian school, but what was typical was the ability of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder to come through once again in an evening that demonstrated time and again why Skaggs is one of the leading lights of bluegrass.