No matter how prolific the musician or ensemble, instrumental albums can get downright dull. Within five songs, even the lyrics to "Kumbaya" would offer a welcome diversion. Or, the performer is so full of their musical prowess, the material appeals to no one but a handful of fellow musicians.
Fortunately, Ricky Skaggs falls into neither trap. The 11 cuts on his all-instrumental album are lively, accessible and relatively diverse. Dipping between Celtic and straight-ahead bluegrass, Skaggs works his butt off, picking mandolin on every cut, several types of guitars, banjo, a bit of percussion and something called a dan electro. His band, Kentucky Thunder, also contributes, though it's odd that in the liner notes, longtime Thunderers Darrin Vincent and Paul Brewster are pictured and have bios, yet aren't credited on any songs. "Crossing the Briney" receives symphony-like treatment with the Nashville String Machine. Accordionist Jeff Taylor adds his squeezebox to several cuts, and Andy Statman's clarinet is a welcome twist on "Gallatin Rag."
Song composition is vague, but it doesn't much matter. Skaggs is in control, and no matter who wrote the songs, it's anything but boring.