Holiday discs are kinda like tributes, covering material you're quite familiar with but just have to hear again in someone else's hands, seeing what kind of interpretation might eventuate. This is The Skaggs Family's second release of Christmas songs, and, if you nabbed the initial volume, you know what to expect -- if you didn't, then I'm about to tell you.
First of all, the CD track mixture is both live and studio, but the recording values are extraordinary, immaculately catching every pure tone and note in full, certainly the equal of an audiophile release, while the singing and musicianship are superb, whether in reverent recital or spirited country-bluegrass. Molly Skaggs' vocal work on What Songs were Sung is as liquid as flowing gold, mindful of Annie Haslam's attentions to classical and Broadway works (the Dvorak cover and Rogers/Hammerstein cut on Annie in Wonderland.), and almost visionary, a study in dulcet perfection. Just stunning.
And while that song is the ne plus ultra of the disc, holding the listener breathless, there's also the jubilant rendering of Christmas Time's A Coming, a Windham Hill-ish rendition of Flight to Egypt that turns into panorama, the bouncing Appalachian semi-rondo of Children Go, and, well, each of the 10 cuts sparkle like diamonds. The Skaggs family, led by Ricky, is forever up front, proving once again why the clan is so cherished among musicians and audiences. Then there are the often understatedly sublime sessioneers and, to top it all, a small orchestra. Wish you could see it as it was performed? You can.
Accompanying the deca-cut sonic disc is a 26-track (!) DVD of a sold-out special concert at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Where the CD's predominantly solemn, the DVD captures the entire gig and is chockfull of swingin' renditions, with all kinds of demonstrations of musical acumen, as well as many quieter numbers. As far as I can tell, there wasn't a single empty seat in the house, the place was comfortably packed, and you're going to wish you were there, too…but, hey, this may be even better, as you can watch it over and over and over. If you're not in the mood for a high mass but want to observe the spiritual side of the occasion along with the warmth of toe-tappin' family togetherness this year, you're not going to do any better than this, friends 'n neighbors. Turn off the network shlaga, toss on A Skaggs Family Christmas, Vol. Two, and have yourself a merry little down-home Christmas, y'all.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles