By: Amelia & Amanda Roper
Before this concert, we weren’t too familiar with Ricky Skaggs. We knew he played bluegrass and country music, but that’s about it. But when Kevin Rolfe (Editor and Chief of UCR) offered this opportunity to review the show, we were on it no questions asked. We’re huge country music fans so all we needed to hear was “Ricky Skaggs, country music legend”, and we were in.
We’ve been to concerts at Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater in Deer Valley many times so we were excited to get back up there. We have our own go to spot to sit and everything. So we settled in and waited for Ricky Skaggs to come out.
One of the first things we noticed was Ricky tunes his instruments incessantly. He mentioned that even when he was a child he just couldn’t stand to play his instruments out of tune. He joked that his father used to tell him that he was “Taking the tuning thing a little too far”. He followed the story about his dad with a song called “Gone Home”. The thing that Ricky has mastered is the ability to tell a great story while he is tuning his instruments. He told stories about the great Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe being his mentor, and how Bluegrass is based on Irish Folk Music. It was amazing to hear the Irish influence on Bluegrass after he said that.
Ricky and Kentucky Thunder sound so great together. Skaggs stayed on the mandolin for most of the concert. The rest of the group were a mix of banjos, guitars, and fiddles. They looked like they were having a great time playing together as a band. After a number where it seemed like they just did a bluegrass jam session, Ricky gave the rest of the guys two thumbs up.
We thought the Utah Symphony played beautifully in this concert. They were a huge part of the show and truly enhanced the evening. Especially on one song in particular. Ricky stated “I never get to do this song because it’s made for a full band and a full orchestra. It’s a hard song to get through. The words hit like a rock and cut like a knife. But if you are a believer, you will understand what this song is about. It’s called “Instead”. Then the Utah Symphony began playing, softly and slowly building into the song. And he was right, this song can only be done this way. It was our favorite song of the night, and it appeared to be a favorite of the entire audience as well.
This crowd just absolutely loved Ricky. They ate up every story and laughed at every joke. They danced throughout the entire concert and held signs expressing their love and devotion to him. While Ricky was tuning his mandolin (Which I know we said this already, but he really tunes that thing every time he’s not playing it!) a cry from the darkened crowd yelled out “I Love You, Ricky!”. He simply looked up and raised one eyebrow. It was classic! Everyone loved it. He made sure to thank the audience for their massive applause after each song.
Another special moment of the night was when Ricky spotlighted one of his bandmates named Jake. He told the audience that Jake was from Salt Lake City. Of course, the crowd roared their approval. Ricky then asked the audience, “How many of you are Jake’s students?!” A section of the audience cried out in acknowledgment. Ricky then yelled out, “How many of you are Jake’s family?!” An even bigger cheer rang out from the audience. We could tell that Jake was excited to be playing in front of his loved ones. We’d imagine it was an extra special evening for him in particular.
We might not be in the exact mountain range where this music was originated, but there is something to be said about hearing mountain music when you’re in the mountains. It just felt right. This was some old-time bluegrass music too. Some of these songs had to have been the original songs of Bluegrass. And Ricky’s voice is perfect for this style. He sings so clear and so high. He attributes his voice to his mother.
We actually were able to have a brief but fun interaction with Ricky. After the intermission, we happened to be right where Ricky walked out to go back on stage. He looked at us and smiled. So we said, “Hey would you mind if we took your picture?” He said “Sure, but you might want to take a lot so you can hang them up on your wall at home.” He laughed, we laughed and began taking pictures. Which made Ricky laugh even more. It was an indicator to us that he was having such a great time. It certainly came across in his performance, but we were glad to get a brief encounter with him and see for ourselves just how much he loved it.
It was a beautiful evening with a bluegrass legend. The music was great. The audience was really fun. And the weather was excellent. The sky was moody, but no storm. Just like the show.