Ricky Skaggs Laments the ‘American Idol’-ing of Country
Throughout a career which has spanned four decades, bluegrass and country musician Ricky Skaggs has collaborated with numerous artists outside those genres, including Elvis Costello, Phish and Bruce Hornsby. In 2009, his version of 'Old Enough,' recorded with rock band the Raconteurs (featuring Jack White of the White Stripes) and Ashley Monroe, nabbed Ricky his most recent CMA nomination.
In spite of his willingness to explore music outside of country and bluegrass, Ricky says it's the current state of country music that encouraged him to make his latest album, 'Songs My Dad Loved,' which hearkens back to material first introduced to him by his father during his childhood in Kentucky, a time when country music was much more easily defined.
"If [country] stays on the 'American Idol' scene," Ricky tells the Washington City Paper, "where its videos want to look like VH1 and the sound wants to be so far away from country and be more pop and be more absorbed by the pop listener where someone buys a John Mayer CD and a hip-hop CD and a Taylor Swift CD -- there's hardly any differentiation anymore. It's like country music doesn't have a sound. When 'Sweet Home Alabama' sounds country ... [that song] sounds like everything that's coming out of Nashville. We've really gone in a different direction."
Still, Ricky concedes he won't get too worked up about the state of country music. Not when there's a wealth of material to continue to explore from decades past, and "new" musicians to discover all the time.
"That's one of the things that sparked me to go back and discover that deep well of water that's still there," he notes. "There's still a pure taste in this old music. There's things to discover. There's new music there.Why would we wanna fight and fuss over this new music that's being played these days, when we can go back and glean from all these great old players?"
Ricky Skaggs' 'Songs My Dad Loved' is the latest album on Skaggs Family Records, the label Ricky started 13 years ago.