It's a funny thing about Ricky Skaggs, the 14-time Grammy Award-winning artist who has seemingly moved effortlessly between mainstream country, Americana, bluegrass and beyond. As much as a moving target as the beloved multi-instrumentalist has proven himself to be, critics and fans everywhere can't stop themselves from trying to pigeonhole his music. That's certainly true now that he has released "Mosaic," a Christian-themed album.
|Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder|
|When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday|
|Where: Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria|
|Details: $35; 202-397-SEAT; ticketmaster.com|
"I'm just the messenger," said Skaggs, who stresses he is a musician who is a Christian, not a Christian musician. "What I really loved are the lyrics. They are alive ... and the music is really a stretch for me in some places."
Although the messages in the song are important to Skaggs, in recording the album he was intent on the artistry of the music. His goal in producing the album with Gordon Kennedy, who wrote all of the songs on "Mosaic," was to ensure that they stand up to other contemporary music.
It's likely no surprise to the multitude of fans that have followed Skaggs since his days in Emmylou Harris' band that Skaggs accomplished his mission.
When Skaggs first heard the demos of Kennedy's songs, he knew he had to enlist him to work on the album. Although some much-loved musicians surround themselves with "yes" men, Skaggs was looking for someone to help him reach the musical highs he wanted to achieve with these songs.
"I am thankful for someone who I love and respect as much as I do Gordon, that cares enough about me and this projects that he will challenge me to go places that I hadn't gone before," said Skaggs. "I have mostly done country and bluegrass all my life ... I really enjoyed having another voice and hand in the battle, to make this different."
But don't look for Skaggs to dwell too long in this format. Even as he tours behind "Mosaic," he is making plans to launch another tour, supported also by an album that showcases his rich, musical history, particularly country, bluegrass and Americana.
Since learning to play mandolin as a toddler and taking the stage at age 5 with bluegrass great Bill Monroe, Skaggs has drilled a deeper musical well than almost any other contemporary artist. Yet, he says, no matter the style there is always one constant in his music.
"My focus is on [taking music to the] street, the county fair, the performing arts festivals," he said. "What I always try to do is perform songs that have a lot of meat on their bones."