>Bluegrass at the Ryman: Cadillac Sky and Ricky Skaggs

>The penultimate week in the Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman series and after last week’s show, I knew this week would have to work hard to equal or top it.

And for the first act, it didn’t look it. It was a new group from Texas called Cadillac Sky. Five guys who all came out in flightsuits and proceeded to play. They didn’t look like your typical bluegrass band nor did they sound a lot like your typical bluegrass band. Now, I know there are some “new-fashioned” bluegrass bands out there and maybe this is one of them….but I will have to admit I didn’t care much for their set at all. Let me say this–in isolated spots, you could tell they were all extremely musically talented. But as a band and a show, it left a lot to be desired. For one thing, I think they totally misjudged their audience–there have been acts that have joked around with the audience but all of the humor they attempted fell flat. And last week I said that Cherryholmes was high energy….and so were these guys. But they were high energy in the same way I’d expect a hair metal band to be high energy–jumping around, head-banging (to bluegrass?!?) and acting like the audience was one at a club where everyone had had a few drinks. I’ve got to say that Cadillac Sky has been my least favorite act I’ve seen in the series and I was in no rush to buy a CD. An indicator of how poorly received they were–no encore. First group this year to not get one.

But that negative taste in my mouth lasted about ten seconds into Ricky Skaggs’ set. I’d not heard Skaggs before, but he came out and was superb. His group, Kentucky Thunder was great, highlighted by a fiddle player who lit it up. I thought his fiddle was in danger of bursting into flames a couple of times during the set–he was that fast and that good. The group played some new stuff, paid homage to tradition and even though the set was a long one, it felt like only a few minutes had passed before Skaggs was coming out for his ovation. Easily one of the top three or four shows I’ve seen at the Ryman this year in this series. And Skaggs was engaging, talking to the audience, cutting some jokes and you could tell having a great time.

Next week is the finale of the series with two headliners and an opening act. Since one of the acts is the Grascals, I bet this series goes out on a high note.

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