Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs' Bluegrass Collaboration Continues
Bruce Hornsby has not rested on "The Way It Is." He probably could -- sometimes it seems like he could rest on the hip-hop songs that sample "The Way It Is." But in the 27 years since his biggest hit came out, he's been working not just on follow-ups -- 10 studio albums, by my count -- but collaborating across genres at the same time.
Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby.
Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby are scheduled to perform Saturday, October 19, at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
Whether having "The Way It Is" in his back pocket helped Hornsby experiment or not, it certainly didn't hurt. "RCA Records," his label from 1985 until 2003, "was always very supportive of my musical evolution . . . since I was going to experiment and work with different musicians through the years anyway, this situation was very nice for me, as I was left alone and allowed to do what I wanted."
That impulse didn't change after he left RCA. In 2007 that led to Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby, which is exactly what it sounds like -- a collaborative record that combines new renditions of bluegrass traditionals with originals from both men and an almost unrecognizable version of "Super Freak." In 2013 they're back on the road together, touring behind a live album, Cluck Ol' Hen.
"I always thought I would do [a bluegrass album]," Hornsby says, "but I had no specific plan for it." The interest was certainly there -- in 1989 he contributed a song to a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album, which won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording -- but the motivation to record an album came from Ricky Skaggs, as the two performed on a tribute record. "When he asked me if I would be interested in making an entire album with him, it was an easy yes for me."