Kentucky Thunder / Ricky Skaggs


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Ricky Skaggs has featured instrumentals on his various albums before (where they're often among the highlights), but this set is the first time Skaggs and his Kentucky Thunder bluegrass ensemble have released an album solely of instrumentals, which makes this a special treat. From the Irish feel of the opening "Going to Richmond," Skaggs and the band hit a confident and assured groove that is at times as much string band jazz as it is bluegrass, and on the absolutely huge-sounding "Crossing the Briney," which makes used of the Nashville String Machine, the sound shifts closer to classical music, complete with massive, swelling crescendos. But this set has a traditional side, too, highlighted by the easy-rolling "Missing Vassar," and while Skaggs wrote all the pieces here, it isn't difficult to imagine Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder as an old-timey string band hanging out on the porch and playing a set of local favorites on a Saturday afternoon. It is this ability to stretch the boundaries of bluegrass while still adhering to a traditional base that makes Skaggs and company so interesting, and when Andy Statman brings his clarinet to the gentle, bright "Gallatin Rag" in a guest spot, the music ceases to be bluegrass or jazz or traditional or anything in particular, but emerges instead as a hybrid of everything at once.

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