Speaking last week on the day after his 34th wedding anniversary, Ricky Skaggs said the celebration started two nights earlier with dinner out, because the rest of the week would get busy.
On this phone call from home in Nashville, Tenn., the singer and mandolin virtuoso was preparing to fly out that afternoon for a string of concerts out west in Canada’s prairie provinces. He and Kentucky Thunder will entertain at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Calvin Gilmore Theater, on U.S. 17 Business, near northern junction of U.S. 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach – home of the “The Carolina Opry” in its 30th year.
Since Skaggs and the band last played Myrtle Beach, for “Singin’ in the Sun” in March 2013, one of his major endeavors involved recording “Hearts Like Ours,” a landmark CD with wife Sharon White. Released last September on Skaggs Family Records, the 13-song package marked not something off “on our bucket list,” he said, but simply the right time of their lives, and a fulfillment of keeping the faith, since they won a Country Music Association award for Vocal Duo of the Year in 1987 for “Love Can’t Ever Get Better Than This.”
Ricky Skaggs wrote his autobiography “Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music” in 2013.
Reflecting on a period almost three decades ago, when they each had contracts with different record labels and their children were young, Skaggs said, “I was always a cheerleader on the sidelines for The Whites, and they were for me.” This latest CD “has condensed this wonderful, wonderful thing of togetherness.”
“Even though it’s two hearts,” Skaggs said, “it feels like it’s beating as one. Our faith has always played a strong part of this record and in our lives.”
Touring among trio, too
He, White and California-based guitarist Roy Cooder also will team up for performances next week across North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee, and do other tour legs as the Cooder-White-Skaggs trio this fall nationwide, including Nov. 20 in Chapel Hill.
Ahead of last weekend in Canada, Skaggs said fans “up there really remember my country music career,” and that “even with the bluegrass configuration we travel with now,” some of the standard country tunes still have their time in these concerts.
Doing “full country dates” still occurs occassionally with a band that includes a steel guitar and drummer, said Skaggs, a Grand Ole Opry inductee from 1982.
Skaggs’ autobiography, “Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music,” written with Eddie Dean and first published in 2013 by It Books, then on paperback last August by Dey Street Books, takes readers on a journey with moments he said he likes recollecting in concerts. Special times in his background go back to age 7 and meeting bluegrass pioneers Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and the honor of later working with so many other artists, such as Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Bruce Hornsby.
“We’ll have to do an update,” Skaggs said, suggesting appending the book title with “ ... So Far.”
He said many fans have evan asked if he’d record an audiobook, “to have in the car from traveling.”
For his own listening pleasure, Skaggs called the “Brand New Strings” CD with Kentucky Thunder, from 2004, “one of my favorites,” though “I took a few liberties” from traditional bluegrass, with parts for electric guitar and drums.
Besides the three self-penned instrumentals sprinkled in among the 13 numbers, he’ still moved by “Spread Your Love Around,” and “If I Had It All Again to Do,” about “a kid growing up on a farm and leaving.”
Storytelling through songs
“It’s really is a great storytelling record,” he said. “ I would love to see a video done of this ... and let people really see in visuals what we mean to say in these songs.”
When hearing George Jones or Johnny Paycheck “back in the last century,” Skaggs said, he would conjure up certain images in his mind.
For a hit such as Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Skaggs said, “I already has a Technicolor movie inside my head” and that marks another way that music touches people’s imagination and interpretation.
“It’s not just heart in one sense,” he said, “but seeing, smelling and tasting it, in your heart.”
Projects to which Skaggs said he looks forward include producing “a family gospel kind of record” involving Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, whom “I knew when she was a little girl” and whose parents are “great, great friends of ours.”
He also wants “to do another bluegrass project with Kentucky Thunder,” and follow up on his “Mosaic” album from 2010. He kidded that it could be called “Moresaic” – “live or in studio.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.
If you go
Who: Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Calvin Gilmore Theater, on U.S. 17 Business, near northern junction of U.S. 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach – home of the “The Carolina Opry” in its 30th anniversary year
How much: $43, $50 or $60
Other guest concerts: All at 6 p.m. –
▪ Gloria Gaynor, with Coastal Inspirational Ambassadors Gospel Choir from Coastal Carolina University and Socastee Singers from Socastee High School, Aug. 30, for $49, $50, $55 or $60.
▪ Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, Sept. 27, for $62.35, $64.50, $69.88 or $74.98
Also: House shows, for which prices vary:
▪ “The Carolina Opry” and “Time Warp,” each 7 p.m. three days weekly in August
▪ “Thunder and Light,” with the All That! clog dancing troupe, 4 p.m. Thursdays
Another stop for Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder: 7 p.m. Sept. 11 in Kenan Auditorium, at University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Single ticket sales start Saturday; call 910-962-3500.
More bluegrass: The Rivertown Bluegrass Society has concerts on the third Saturday monthly including Aug. 15, when The Henson Girls will entertain at 5 and 7:15 p.m., and Lonesome Meadow 6 and 8 p.m., at Horry-Georgetown Technical College’s Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium, off U.S. 501 in Conway. Admission $12 ages 12 and older, otherwise free. Other lineups for the rest of summer into autumn are, each 5 p.m. (Details at 457-2854 or www.rivertownbluegrasssociety.com):
▪ Sept. 15 – Travis Frye Blue Mountain, and Mountain Rain Band
▪ Oct. 17 – Carolina Rebels, and Kevin Prater Band