Ricky Skaggs plays 'Music to My Ears'

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Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

It must be interesting to be Ricky Skaggs these days.

The multi-Grammy-winning mainstream country-turned-bluegrass virtuoso is once again awash in awards and praise, most recently for his latest album, "Music to My Ears." But even though Skaggs is one of America's most honored and revered artists, he still approaches every recording and show with a fresh perspective. For him, 50 years in the business is just a landmark, not a finish line.

"I don't know anything else that I would do or love more than music," said Skaggs. "The older I get, the more I feel this end of my career is much more important than the beginning. I look at myself as something like a father who really cares about the next generation and tries to be a voice in their lives."

Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than in his efforts to reach across musical formats. Although Skaggs performs with the A-list, he also prides himself on nurturing newcomers and welcoming established artists outside of bluegrass into the fold.

Onstage
Ricky Skaggs
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
Info: $39.50; Saturday show sold out at press time, but tickets may still be available through resellers; 202-397-SEAT (7328); ticketmaster.com

Listeners hear that on the 11 tracks of "Music to My Ears," which includes collaborations with Barry Gibbs of the Bee Gees (on a song Gibbs penned for Skaggs, "Soldier's Son") and on the musical spotlights he cedes to the musicians in Kentucky Thunder. Of course, his work with Bruce Hornsby, Jack White, John Fogerty, the Dixie Chicks and others has consistently received rave reviews.

While some artists continually collaborate as a way to freshen their music or shore up a faltering fan base, Skaggs has no such need. His work has won him 14 Grammy Awards, eight CMA Awards, eight ACM awards, 11 International Bluegrass Music Association and many more honors, and only underscores what his sold-out shows and massive record sales prove about his popularity.

Just before he received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music last fall, Skaggs summed up his feelings about what keeps him moving ahead.

"I feel like have a lot of music left to cut in my life," he said. "I don't feel like I've nearly got to the place where I'm ready to even slow down. I love the band that I have right now. These guys can play anything. I just love the fact that we're getting a lot of opportunities."

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