More From Ricky - With Pictures

Soldier of the Cross, DVD (Skaggs Family Records)
Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder

By Bob Mitchell

Ricky is on a roll! His latest CD, Live at the Charleston Music Hall, is currently in the top five on the national survey and now, his first-ever DVD is destined to get plenty of national attention. [Editor's note: a review for the "Live" project was published in the May 2003 issue of Louisville Music News.]

Soldier of the Cross is first rate gospel performance enriched with seven interviews; assorted still photos of Monroe and Skaggs; an appearance from The Whites and Jerry and Tammy Sullivan; guest spots from other well known names in Christian music; and two non-gospel instrumentals. "Soldier" is a re-issue of the powerful 1999 live concert taped before a standing room only crowd at the Gibson Bluegrass Cafe in Nashville TN. Watching it makes you wish you had been there because it is vintage bluegrass the way it is meant to be played. The harmony work alone is guaranteed to put goose bumps on the back of your neck, especially on the title cut and a cover for Bill Monroe's "Voices From On High."

Two of my favorite selections are blazing instrumentals: "Amanda Jewell," named for Skaggs' daughter and Bill Monroe's classic, "Get Up John." Clay Hess (guitar), Bobby Hicks (fiddle) and Luke Bella (fiddle) provide amazing solos. Other highlights include a superb trio arrangement of Paul Brewster's original song "Waiting At The Gate;" an original heartfelt brush arbor style track from the Sullivans, "He Lives;" and The Whites' hand-clapping original from the pen of Jim Mills (banjo), "Jesus Is The Missing Piece." On this track, Mills, however, provides exemplary thumb style guitar work.

After a thunderous standing ovation, Skaggs obliges the crowd with two encores, an a capella powerhouse, "Lead Me To The Rock," and a blistering arrangement of Carter Stanley's "Hallelujah, I'm Ready To Go," featuring the entire cast. It doesn't get any better than this. On a five-point scale of excellence, this release is a six. If you have a DVD player but no bluegrass discs, this is the disc to begin a bluegrass collection. If you don't have a DVD player, you should consider buying one so you can experience this amazing technology showcasing an amazing concert.