Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ricky Skaggs - Sweet Temptation (1979)

Sweet Temptation was Ricky Skaggs’ first album as a solo artist. Ricky was then a member of Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band but had previously worked with J.D. Crowe, The Country Gentlemen, Boone Creek, and Ralph Stanley. The album is essentially a collection of impeccably played bluegrass and country standards, with some decent but forgettable contemporary country songs thrown in. Sweet Temptation is similar in feel to the Emmylou Harris albums that were coming out at that time, but it’s just not as good.

Looking at the album critically, I think that its biggest flaw is that it doesn’t know if it wants to be a bluegrass or a country album. It sounds like Ricky recorded four or five cuts with a bluegrass band and four or five cuts with a country band and spliced them together to create a full album; it feels like two projects combined into one, rather than a carefully planned blend of two styles. Sweet Temptation also feels a little too comfortable and a little too polished with these incredibly talented musicians effortlessly churning out conservative, respectful renditions of these classic songs.

Having said all this, it is simply impossible to find any flaws with the musicianship on this album. If you like traditional country and bluegrass, and you like Ricky Skaggs, you will like this album. Ultimately, Sweet Temptation is pleasant, but non-essential.

AMG Rating: ****1/2
My Rating: ***


Elrod said...

Check out the Skaggs video at age 7. It's amazing.

john said...

I like to think of "sweet temptation" as ricky's "coming out" album. this is the first time in his life when he proclaimed to the world his deepest darkest secrets, and as we all can imagine, ricky's temptation is very, very sweet. yes, he was emboldened perhaps by the loose climate of the times and the willingness of many of his contemporaries not to denounce his coming out in "sweet temptation" as a perversity, and he thought he could take a stand and make a big, personal statement. I think his mom cried for a few days after the record came out, and his dad wouldn't speak to him for a while, but eventually they came to love him despite it all.

postscript: since that moment way back when, ricky has since reverted to his old ways, denying his lifestyle of the halcyon, crazy solo breakaway days when he chased those neon rainbows, rainbows of all sorts, really, and sang easy listening country. he is a self-proclaimed christian in only the most perfect (re: evangelical) sense, plays only gospel bluegrass, and shuns those who would do otherwise. i think his parents ended up placing him in one of those crazy god camps to fix, well, you know. now, when necessary, he simply performs a lot of the exercises he learned in camp, and reads the bible a LOT, to avoid the sweet temptation that led him awry back in '79. and boy, he must think before he flagellates himself, what a SWEET temptation that is...