Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder History of the Future

Skaggs has always been the savvy modern face of bluegrass, but that position has never seemed to compromise his approach to the music. Although he wasn't part of the O Brother... phenomenon, he has still reaped its benefits by default. And why not? He was the rightful keeper of the flame through the '80s and '90s, and probably will continue to be in the years to come. The difference now is that with bluegrass's increased exposure, he won't have to rely on often-intrusive instrumental pyrotechnics to grab attention. Instead, the songs can just speak for themselves, and that's the case throughout most of History of the Future. Skaggs and company turn in fine performances overall, especially on the traditional "Shady Grove" and the honky-tonk classic "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke." However, as the album goes on a bit of Nashville gloss begins to shine through, creating a bit of a distraction by the time things are wrapped up on a rousing note with "Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms." Skaggs still leads one of the best bluegrass bands out there right now, but this album is more for mainstream fans of the music. (Lyric Street)