A Skaggs Family Christmas, Vol 2 (CD Review)
1. Christmas Time’s a Coming 2. Light of the Stable 3. The First Noel 4. What Songs Were Sung
5 Silent Night 6. Flight to Egypt 7. Reunion Song 8. Children Go
9. Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel 10. Joy to the World
Release – Sept 27, 2011
Label – Skaggs Family Records
Catalog – SFC 10122
UPC – 669890101220
Genre – Holiday
Time – 37:51
Back in 2005 due to fans requests A Skaggs Family Christmas Volume One emerged and Ricky Skaggs a 14-time Grammy Winner wasn’t sure if there would be another one. With fans eager for more seasonal cheer we now have another family Christmas project with Volume Two, which again is a true labour of love!
Ricky and his family are indeed in good spirits and ready to celebrate in more ways than one. Skaggs now in this 50th year in the entertainment business took home two prestigious new awards in 2011 winning both Entertainer of the Year and Musician of the Year at the 17th Annual ICM Faith and Family & Country Awards.
This new 10-track gift wrapped offering contains both studio and live recordings. Ricky Skaggs is the projects arranger and executive producer and plays guitar, gut string guitar, mandolin and adds both lead and harmony vocals.
On this extended family get together Skaggs is joined by his wife Sharon Skaggs White (Guitar, Vocal Harmony, Vocals) along with their talented children Luke (Arranger, Guitar, Vocal Harmony) and Molly (Arranger, Piano, Vocal Harmony, Vocals).
Ricky’s in-laws and musical clan The Whites are welcomed to this Yuletide gathering with Buck (Bass Vocal, Mandolin) and Cheryl White (Bass, Vocal Harmony, Vocals) and Cheryl’s daughter, Rachel Leftwich (Arranger, Vocal Harmony, Vocals). Also featuring on this recording are members of Ricky’s highly praised band KENTUCKY THUNDER and The Nashville Strings conducted by Jim Gray.
With bells a ringin’ things get going in a spritely manner on the bluegrass fuelled opener ‘Christmas Time’s a Coming. Written by Texan Tex Logan he is best known for this famous original seasonal song and whose material has been recorded by Bill Monroe and Emmylou Harris.
Sharon with sister Cheryl, and father Buck then take the spotlight on the gentle and uplifting version of ‘Light of the Stable’ featuring some delicate mandolin pickings. Written by Elizabeth Rhymer and Steven Rhymer this Christmas tune was first released in 1975 and recorded by Emmylou Harris with Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Neil Young providing harmony and became Harris’ title cut on her 1979 Christmas release. Elaine Paige and The Judds have also taken a shine to his number.
Ricky takes the lead on a live cappella cover of the traditional ‘The First Noel’ accompanied by the White sisters with their delicious high and low harmonies – The loud cheers signify the audience loved it.
The sombre ‘What Songs Were Sung’ was composed by John Jacob Niles who was a collector of traditional ballads and earned him the title “Dean of American Balladeers”. He penned a number of classic folk songs including, “Black Is the Color” and the haunting carol “I Wonder as I Wander”. Musicality and tradition has most definitely been passed down and Ricky and Sharon White must be immensely proud of daughter Molly who plays piano and sings a heavenly vocal as peace and love become but one on this near 7-minute outstanding masterpiece.
Mother Sharon then provides more gorgeous lead backed by more divine harmonies on the classic ‘Silent Night’. This acoustic laden track develops when joined by a restrained but soaring string section.
Luke Skaggs then showcases his wares on his instrumental composition ‘Flight to Egypt’. With its intricate fretwork, slapping bass and interesting orchestral passages this evocative score must have been something to behold on the live stage.
The family then unite like birds of a feather on the melodic and sermon-like ‘Reunion Song’ with Ricky taking lead flavoured with rich acoustic and steel pickings. It was written by the late Canadian Gene MacLellan who wrote the much covered “Snowbird” (a hit for Anne Murray) and the gospel/pop song “Put Your Hand In The Hand”. His daughter Catherine herself a songwriter has recently finish a UK tour.
Lots of family vocal interplay features on the sparse trad tune ‘Children Go’. With a slowly and original arrangement on ‘Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel’, Luke, Molly and Rachel breathe purity into a frosty air, giving it a laid back and mellow feel.
It rounds off with ‘Joy to the World’ strangely devoid of any vocals as a symphonic sampler, which although pleasant enough its home belongs on a classical compilation. Not to be left disappointed this follow-up to Volume One has an additional bonus with a 26-track full-length DVD concert which was filmed at the Ryman Auditorium.
As a 15-member troupe the three generations continue their tradition of taking A Skaggs Family Christmas on the road on this their ninth successive year – “We started singing these songs in our living room ages ago,” explained Sharon. “We had no idea that we would ever take this show to so many different places”. The show is described as a down-home, Bluegrass-inspired seasonal celebration that is a musical tour de force. It will conclude at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Thursday, December 22, 2011.
It is with great sadness to report that 62 year old Tom Roady, a longtime percussionist in Nashville who plays on this album and also on Volume One died in his sleep on Nov. 28, 2011 in the band’s tour bus prior to a planned performance at Clemson University playing drums whilst on this tour. Tom was credited on albums right across the musical genres and played on scores of some of the finest country albums with Suzy Bogguss, Kenny Chesney, The Dixie Chicks, Sara Evans, Vince Gill, and Martina McBride, among the many.