Skaggs/McCoury leave no fans grumbling
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Cerritos, Cal., Jan. 26, 2000
By Dan MacIntosh
CERRITOS, CA - "Have you had enough bluegrass yet?" asked Ricky Skaggs to a resounding "no" from the audience. Thus began Skagg's portion of this three-hour bluegrass extravaganza, which also included an opening set from The Del McCoury Band.
Although Skaggs may have walked away from a successful career as a mainstream country singer to focus his attention upon the music he grew up with, he appears to be loving every minute of his recently chosen musical direction.
These days, Skaggs the instrumentalists sticks primarily to playing mandolin, though he also plays his acoustic guitar occasionally. It's no great loss, though, as he opened his set with two rip-roaring instrumental workouts, which featured Skaggs playing unbelievably fast mandolin leads before he'd even warmed up.
When Skaggs wasn't taking center stage, acoustic guitartist Clay Hess rattled off smooth and speedy leads, and his long time fiddler, Bobby Hicks, countered with warm fiddle breaks.
Interspersed with Kentucky Thunder's fine playing, Skaggs provided informative between song patter. It's hard to believe this young looking man managed to play with Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe and The Stanley Brothers before he'd even reached age 10. But that's how he recalled his formative years.
His set list was divided among three primary categories: gospel ("Rank Stranger" "Were You There?), bluegrass workouts ("Bluegrass Rules,)" and old country hits ("Highway Blues" "Uncle Pen").
If you came expecting a career retrospective, you would have left disappointed. But if you were there to hear a master musician playing the music he truly loves, than you would have gotten more than your money's worth.
The Del McCoury band opened the show with an hour's worth of effortless familial bluegrass music. McCoury looked over his group like the proud father he has every right to be.
Slipped in among such traditional standouts as "High on a Mountain," the band also played a few wild cards, such as the old '60's folk tune "Nashville Cats" and a Tom Petty tune ("Love is a Long Road").
With such an abundance of top-of-the-line bluegrass music, no true fan of the form had any reason to leave the theatre grumbling this night.