Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ricky Skaggs

  • Waitin' for the Sun to Shine [Epic, 1981] B+
  • Highways and Heartaches [Epic, 1982] B+
  • Don't Cheat in Our Hometown [Sugar Hill/Epic, 1983] B+
  • Country Boy [Epic, 1984] B
  • Love's Gonna Get Ya! [Epic, 1986] B+
  • Country Gentleman: The Best of Ricky Skaggs [Epic/Legacy, 1998] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Waitin' for the Sun to Shine [Epic, 1981]
Skaggs's taste and technique are impeccable; not one of these ten songs, many of them classics I'd never heard before, falters melodically or lyrically, and the arrangements, snazzy though they are, are so steeped in country tradition they could be from decades ago. Which I guess is my beef, because the only way you'd guess it isn't decades ago is from the faint folk-wimp whine in Skaggs's mountain tenor. B+

Highways and Heartaches [Epic, 1982]
If Skaggs has come up with the best country album of the year, as he probably has, it's because despite his abandonment of bluegrass purism he's still a bluegrass purist at heart. Which means his commitment is more to the style than to the songs. Which means that above all his success is proof positive of the pusillanimity of the competition. B+

Don't Cheat in Our Hometown [Sugar Hill/Epic, 1983]
Nothing if not an astute traditionalist, Skaggs understands that what makes country music go is the tension between heaven and hell. But where most great country singers come off mealy-mouthed in the virtuous mode, Skaggs makes it sound as if he only sins because he knows he's supposed to. This may mean he's not a great country singer. B+

Country Boy [Epic, 1984]
Act authentic for too long and it begins to sound like an act even if it isn't. I mean, didn't John Denver preempt the title of this thing? Oh right, his went "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." God, I best Ricky wishes he could get away with that one. B

Love's Gonna Get Ya! [Epic, 1986]
Technical brilliance and conceptual integrity put Skaggs on top of Nashville's neotraditionalist totem pole and make his albums run together like bluegrass. But this one has an edge. Maybe it's the moments of calculated grace--blues intro to "Walkin' in Jerusalem," Everlys cover that could break them up all over again, duets with James Taylor and Sharon White. Or maybe it's just the drum sound. B+

Country Gentleman: The Best of Ricky Skaggs [Epic/Legacy, 1998]
intensely sweet until he started to repeat himself, and also after ("Heartbroke," "Don't Cheat in Our Hometown") ***