Editors' pick

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

Folk/Bluegrass
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Editorial Review

RICKY SKAGGS
Album review: "Mosaic"

It's almost unfair to say that Ricky Skaggs's newest album explores his faith.

Yes, the music on the Grammy-nominated "Mosaic" has a Christian theme, but it's much more. Take away the lyrics and you have pure country pop, folk and even country rock. Acoustic guitars, a more than occasional electric guitar and synthesizers create a contemporary sound that defies categorization. Add in guest artists - including Peter Frampton, who lends a guitar solo to "My Cup Runneth Over" - and you begin to understand the synergies.

"I'm not a Christian artist. I'm an artist that is a Christian," Skaggs said in an interview. "That's an important distinction."

The songs on "Mosaic" were written by former Christian rocker Gordon Kennedy (along with various co-writers), who has worked with Eric Clapton, Frampton and other high-voltage artists.

"When Gordon called, I said, 'Hey, I love this,' " said Skaggs, who had heard song demos. " 'Would you work with me on this record? You have a handle on the sound I hear in this, and I can't re-create it without you.' "

It's a collaboration that creates musical magic.

Consider the incredible mix of textures in "My Cup Runneth Over": Skaggs's distinctive, sincere vocals over pop rock. Or the choir and orchestra that play lead roles in "Return to Sender." Then there's "Someday Soon," which relies on banjo, piano and drums to back up the beguiling chorus.

All that comes together to make "Mosaic" a rare and haunting musical tapestry.

--Nancy Dunham, Jan. 2011