Early last month we reported that banjo picker Jim Mills was leaving Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, a job he had held for the past 14 years. The move came as a shock to a lot of Skaggs/Mills fans, and caught a good many folks in the bluegrass music business by surprise.
With the announcement of Skaggs’ new album, Mosaic (due August 24 on Skaggs Family Records), we can begin see a bit clearer through the haze. What we have been hearing unofficially for several weeks is now made public: Ricky is taking his music in a new direction, reincorporating electric instruments, keyboards and drums into his sound.
Mosaic is a testament to Skaggs’ Christian faith, but not what we in the bluegrass world might call a “Gospel album.” The audio clips available on the Skaggs Family site show Skaggs in fine voice on a set of songs produced for the contemporary Christian market. He hasn’t abandoned his acoustic/bluegrass roots, though. The strains of acoustic guitar, mandolin and fiddle are still present, but the music itself owes far more to pop/rock/country than anything he has recorded in the past dozen or so years.
As the label site indicates…
Skaggs worked closely with fellow GRAMMY winner Gordon Kennedy, known for his work with Eric Clapton, Garth Brooks and Bonnie Raitt, to create an album that mixes elements of Country music with Beatles-esque melody and lyrics that speak to Skaggs’ faith, making “music that is in my head and in my heart,” says Skaggs.
Kentucky Thunder will also reflect this new sound when they begin supporting the new CD in live performances. We understand that the band members have been told that Ricky intends to prepare for both bluegrass and electric shows with the same personnel.
As we indicated in the title of our earlier post, it’s the end of an era.