Ricky Skaggs and the Whites Salt of the Earth

This record celebrates tradition: the tradition of Ricky Skaggs’s marriage of 25 years to Sharon White; the tradition of family; and the shared tradition of their combined love of making country-based gospel music. Skaggs has proven his skills over countless records and multiple genres but here, in the company of wife Sharon, and together with sister-in-law Cheryl and father-in-law Buck White, the band are clearly focused on the devotional. The 13 tracks take full advantage of the Whites’ history of patented harmonies, great song selections and solid (if not under-spoken) acoustic accompaniment. The material ranges from the devout and hymn-like ("Near The Cross”) to the uplifting, if not anthemic, "Love Will Be Enough.” As with all good gospel, this is mostly about the vocals, and the leads are shared by all four singers. This overdue collaboration reaches its pinnacle in the final minute of "Blessed Assurance,” wherein all four singers demonstrate their significant powers a cappella. Yet it is Skaggs’s vocals (if not production savvy) that anchor this disc, providing some much-needed contrast to Sharon and Cheryl’s sometimes syrupy-sweet leads. This long-delayed collaboration proves to be a gospel treasure well worth digging for. (Skaggs)