Musical icons performed at Turning Stone
Music icons Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby graced the stage of The Showroom at the Turning Stone Casino recently. It was the last stop on a limited six city tour. Backing them up was Kentucky Thunder, Skaggs’ regular acoustic band.
Both artists have ventured away in recent years from the genres that made them famous. Skaggs made his name in country, while Hornsby became big in adult contemporary music. Nowadays they prefer the more folksy varieties of American music. This show was all bluegrass and bluegrass inspired.
Aside from a few Skaggs and Hornsby originals, the set list consisted mostly of cover songs. They performed bluegrass classics such as “How Mountain Girls Can Love” by the Stanley Brothers, and “20/20 Vision” by Jimmy Martin. Bill Monroe, widely considered the father of bluegrass, also featured prominently in the set with “Toy Heart,” Bluegrass Breakdown,” “Blue Knight,” “Uncle Pen” and “Rawhide” being played.
One cover in particular came from Hornsby’s youth. As he introduced “I’m a People” by George Jones he said how at the age of 16 he went to a record store (when there were record stores, he lamented) and bought the album of the same name with that quirky song for a penny.
They played only one original Hornsby tune, “The Way It Is.” It received by far the biggest reaction of the evening from the audience. In keeping with the theme of the show, the usually downbeat song was reworked as a foot-tapping bluegrass tune. Skaggs sang lead on several of the verses, his higher register adding to the up tempo vibe. Everyone took solos on the almost ten minute version of the song.
The level of musicianship on display from everyone on stage was truly amazing. The speed and precision with which they all played was a sight to see. Hornsby is of course a renowned pianist, and Skaggs is an expert on the mandolin. Skaggs would sometimes play so hard and fast that his head was shaking. Those two were expected to be excellent. The real revelation of the night came from members of Kentucky Thunder. In particular, lead guitarist Jake Workman was a marvel. Playing acoustically leaves little room for error, and he never missed a single note. Stand-up bassist Scott Mulvahill was also a highlight, taking several well received solos.
For the encore song, Skaggs joked that they were “going to let you down easy” with a cover of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ “I Heard My Mother Call My Name In Prayer.” The slow, wistful tune was indeed a change from the usually frenetic pace of the main set. They were given a well-deserved standing ovation afterward for an exceptional night of music.
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder has tour dates lined up for the Eastern U.S. through October. Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers start their U.S. tour on April 5th.
James Suits / James Suits Photography / The Fuze Magazine
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