LIVE: Ry Cooder, Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White & Friends @ The Egg, 11/15/15
Review by Bokonon
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
You play a different kind of music as you get older. Unless you’re stupid. You relax, leave the gunslinging to the kids and surrender to the ancient beauty of the groove. Ricky Skaggs gets that. So does Ry Cooder.
The gents gathered, with family and friends, Sunday night at The Egg’s Hart Theatre for a concert that was good. Morally good. Like a Carter Family show.
Both played with charm and elan, with mirth and wit, and neither felt the need to prove a single damn thing. I’ve seen Skaggs on his own, and Cooder, too. They can rip it up. But Sunday night was not about ripping it up. It was about letting it flow.
In essence, it was a Skaggs show, insamuch as Cooder was clearly getting off on being a sideman. He did sing a few, including a greasy bouzouki-driven encore of Blind Alfred Reed’s “You Must Unload.” But for the most part Cooder simply comped, picking a sweet lead here and there, or, on the bluegrass numbers, knocking three-finger banjo to shame the band.
Joachim Cooder played the drums with a laconic taste passed down from father to son; and Sharon White (featured on the bill by name) was joined by her sister Cheryl and her 84-year-old father, Buck, who worked the piano like a master all night long. Between the factions stood bassist Mark Fain, who’s played with Skaggs long enough to at least count as a nephew.
For those keeping track at home, Cooder played guitar (acoustic and electric), slide (just a touch), banjo, and electric bouzouki and mandolin. Skaggs played guitar (acoustic and electric), fiddle and, how could he not, lots of mandolin.
But, it can’t be said enough, this was a show about songs far more than picking. And none of the three leads drew enough from their own catalog to even hawk a record. Cooder, in fact, repeatedly sent to the audience to Youtube, suggesting some homework to find the evening’s manifold roots sources – including the Louvin Brothers, Kitty Wells, Flatt & Scruggs, Merle Travis and more.
Highlights? Well, if one can’t hear Cooder singing Jim Reeves’ “He’ll Have to Go” live, Hank Snow’s “A Fool Such As I” is a close second. Skaggs’ high lonesome tenor decorated the Dillards’ “The Old Home Place.” And White’s clear, ringing tone, well, rang on Hank Williams’ “Mansion on the Hill.” Group harmony numbers like “Gone Home,” “the crepuscular and diaphanous” float of “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies” and “Wait a Little Longer, Please Jesus” reminded all of what country music once meant. And the chug of the Delmore Brothers’ “Pan American Boogie” was as rock and roll as Nashville ever needs to be.
Dang, let’s all get old and make some music.
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
RY COODER, RICKY SKAGGS, SHARON WHITE & FRIENDS SET LIST
The Family Who Prays (The Louvin Brothers)
Take Me in Your Lifeboat (Flatt & Scruggs)
Sweet Temptation (Merle Travis)
Mansion On the Hill (Hank Williams)
Cold Jordan (The Stanley Brothers)
Soul of a Man
Hold Whatcha Got (Jimmy Martin)
A Fool Such as I (Hank Snow)
Gone Home (Flatt & Scruggs)
Old Home Place (The Dillards)
I’m Ready to Go
Makin’ Believe (Kitty Wells)
Pan American Boogie (The Delmore Brothers)
Wait a Little Longer, Please Jesus (The Louvin Brothers)
No Doubt About It (Flatt & Scruggs)
Walkin’ in Jerusalem
Over in the Glory Land
You Must Unload (Blind Alfred Reed)
Reunion in Heaven (Flatt & Scruggs)