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A Skaggs Family Christmas, Vol. 2

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  • Posted October 17, 2011

    Eclectic album covers much territory ... bonus DVD appreciated!

    As families gather for the holidays, I'd love to have the extended Skaggs Family joyously singing and playing live in our home. The next best thing, "A Skaggs Family Christmas Volume Two" includes both a ten-track CD of both live and studio recordings, and a bonus DVD with 26 songs. The CD features a combination of seasonal favorites (such as an a cappella live trio rendition of "The First Noel" and gospel quartet arrangement of "Children Go") along with new compositions (such as Luke Skaggs' instrumental "Flight to Egypt"). The contemporary "Reunion Song" is a sturdy showcase for consummate musician Ricky's vocal and multi-instrumental talents. Written by Gene MacLellan, the lyrical country number is tastefully rendered with sweet electric guitar, pedal steel, and drums in the mix. It's also a pleasure when a family album is presented in such a way that all members of the clan can share in the performance with love and delight. Molly Skaggs demonstrates her piano and vocal proficiencies on "What Songs Were Sung," and Cheryl and Sharon White alternate lead and harmony vocals on "Light of the Stable." Featuring the next generation, Luke & Molly Skaggs and their cousin Rachel Leftwich present "Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel" with minimal guitar accompaniment and a vocal purity that is a heart of the season.

    Conducted by Jim Gray, The Nashville Strings make their aurally pleasurable appearance on three cuts (Silent Night, Flight to Egypt, Joy to the World). As their fluid instrumental arrangement of "Joy to the World" closes the album, it's interesting to note how this eclectic album has covered so much territory in so little time. It ranges from the three tracks with a cappella vocalizing or minimal guitar to the sounds of an entire orchestra. I must admit that I missed the crescendo of a Heavenly choir proclaiming the refrain on "Joy to the World," but that can be heard on the separate DVD. And don't expect this to be anything close to a bluegrass album, but enjoy the members of Kentucky Thunder as they pick the classic written by Tex Logan, "Christmas Time's A Coming," for the CD's opening salvo. As I pointed out in 2005 after reviewing Volume One, I'm most grateful for the Skaggs Family's loyal support of the bluegrass genre, and it might have been nice to tap the traditional bluegrass repertoire for even additional material. I'm still left to imagine contemporary Skaggs Family arrangements of Ralph Stanley's "Jesus Christ is Born," "Holiday Pickin'" or perhaps "Christmas is Near." Or how about a cover of Virginia Stauffer's "That's Christmas Time to Me," partly in tribute to Ricky's mentor, Bill Monroe?

    Let's rejoice that the Skaggs Family is so sharing of their memorable music and superior talent with us during this special and celebratory time of the year. The 26-song DVD (capturing a live Nashville performance) is certainly appreciated too. It includes all of the songs on Volume Two's CD except for "Silent Night," along with many of the favorites that appear on Volume One. I particularly enjoyed those numbers on the DVD that haven't been released by the Skaggs Family on CD yet (New Star Shining, Winter Wonderland, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Go Tell it on the Mountain). We can rest assured that these four songs will most likely appear in a few years when the Skaggs Family creates a third volume of melodious music for their holiday gift to us. (Joe Ross, Roseburg, OR.)

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