"Mosaic" by Ricky Skaggs

Ricky Skaggs
Skaggs Family Records
4 stars (out of 5)

By Aaron Keith Harris

Mosaic is a departure for Ricky Skaggs, who made a second (or third) career of his rerun to country music from the crumbling genre of country music with 1997’s Bluegrass Rules! This album was advertised in promotional materials and in, if my memory serves, an ad that popped up on my Facebook page, as a Ricky’s return to a “full band” sound. I can’t think of anything more insulting to the legacy of his bluegrass band, Kentucky Thunder, which has won several awards over the last 13 years as perhaps the most accomplished and powerful unit in a generation of American acoustic music.

Leaving aside that remarkable slight, Mosaic is a highly listenable gospel/pop/rock album that shows Skaggs is a great singer outside the rules of country and bluegrass and showcases the talents of songwriter/producer/instrumentalist Gordon Kennedy, who has worked with Eric Clapton and Garth Brooks, among others.

Those who have not appreciated Skaggs’ occasional testimonials from the bluegrass stage about his faith may not like this album, whose main theme is a return to God and which seems an extension of the call Skaggs had to return to the traditional sounds and themes of bluegrass, but they might, as most listeners will, find this setting more palatable to hear his message.

At times this album’s sound is like something Mark Knopfler might write and produce, and the songs are all gorgeous, including the Celtic-tinged redemption ballad “Instead,” the ebullient “My Cup Runneth Over,” complete with guitar solo from Peter Frampton, the hymn-like “A Work of Love” and the soaring “Someday Soon.”

As one who especially enjoys Skaggs’ bluegrass work, I hope he returns to that vein, but this 14-track, one-hour project is a worthwhile and meaningful side trip.