Ricky Skaggs


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Ricky Skaggs has been so steady throughout his long career, turning out finely crafted country pop hits, and since 1997, at least, basing most of his recorded work around bluegrass and his stellar mandolin playing rather than the Nashville mainstream, that’s it’s easy to forget how varied his output actually is, and he’s at a point now where he can explore whatever avenue he wants on his new Skaggs Family Records imprint. On Mosaic, he steps back from that bluegrass base and delivers a fully accessible and modern record of melodic and spiritually-themed pop songs that aren’t exactly country, aren’t exactly gospel, and aren’t exactly rock, although they explore the same dynamics. Truthfully, if there’s a distant influence over this record, it might well be the Beatles, as song after song here unwinds with beautiful pop melodies and carefully arranged studio touches, including occasional orchestration and even backwards guitars. Don’t worry, Skaggs plays some mandolin on Mosaic, but he’s more likely to be playing electric guitar on these tracks, and if the overall sound is on the country side of pop, the themes and lyrics are pure gospel -- this is an album about God. The title track, “Mosaic,” which is also the lead off track, is an obvious highlight, as is the ballad “Instead,” which features orchestration and bagpipes, “I’m Awake Now,” which comes embedded with tastefully applied backwards-sounding electric guitars and a lead vocal by Molly Skaggs, and the album’s rhythmic centerpiece, “My Cup Runneth Over,” complete with some guest electric guitar from Peter Frampton. There is nothing remotely traditional about these tracks, and Skaggs’ many bluegrass fans may scratch their heads at this outing, but the music on Mosaic, for all its graceful experimentation, doesn’t sound madcap or out of place with the whole of Skaggs’ legacy. It’s both familiar and new, and very, very hummable.

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