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Around Our Town...Music To My Ears

A Skaggs Family Christmas, Volume One

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12/01/2005 - When I was a little feller, one of my Christmas rituals was to put on a favorite Christmas record (Buck Owens, Charley Pride, Elvis, the Chipmunks, etc.), darken the room, and lie on my back underneath the tree, staring up through the branches at the beautiful lights. I remember feeling the magic of the season as I escaped to my own little Christmas haven. Nothing could touch me when I was under that tree. Alas, for now I am far too fat to fit under the tree, and the ritual for me has changed some. Now I sit in my easy chair, watching my children lie under the sparkling tree, listening raptly to Christmas music. You see, I am now in the business of manufacturing memories for my kids. That has become what it's all about, so to speak. No, It's not all about the Hokey Pokey, as I'm sure you've been led to believe. It's about ensuring that my progeny can look back on their childhood and sigh fondly. It's kind of ridiculous, though, the lengths some of us will go to in order to create good memories. I remember my mom getting up on the roof and stomping around in the snow on Christmas Eve, Ho Ho Ho-ing like a dern fool. A fortuitously placed snow bank broke her fall, and she was up and on her feet again by Valentine's Day. Okay. I made up the part about her falling off the roof, but it would have served her right...

And now for the grand digression and the awkward segue. I am a sucker. Every year I fall for the Christmas marketing...Oops, I meant Holiday Season marketing, since we all know it's politically incorrect to mention the "Christ" part. Hey! I guess if you took the Christ part out, it would be "Mas(s) marketing." Yep. Well, like I said, I'm a sucker. I always buy new lights, and I always buy a couple of new Christmas music selections. I try to pick stuff that will contribute to whole magic/memory making thing. I picked a winner this time. And a loser, but I'm only going to tell you about the winner.

Alright, I'll be the first to admit that by purchasing "A Skaggs Family Christmas," I was sort of cherry-picking. Why? Because you know I was bound to like it. Why? Because Ricky Skaggs is one of my musical heroes, and Bluegrass rules, and I love the songs on it, and the combination of all these things promised to be promising. Why? Hey! Knock it off! Quit asking why!

Anyway, I was bound to like it, and I did. I still do, actually, even though I've played it 2,541 times since the Friday after Thanksgiving. That's the day when my wife will let me start listening to Christmas music. The disc was so inspirational for me that, on the 2,287th time I listened to it, I attempted the ritual again. First I got on the scale. Two hundred-twenty pounds. Not good, but it was a nice-sized tree, and the lowest branches were pretty high off the floor. Plenty of clearance, I figured. I took a good look in the full-length mirror on the bathroom door, sucked in my ample middle and made for the living room. The tree awaited with outstretched boughs, beckoning me to come hither and recline at its feet. I scooched and wriggled my way under, knocking several bulbs off and somehow managing to get a strand of multi-colored lights wrapped around my neck. I struggled briefly but frantically, and wound up hopelessly tangled in ornaments and strings of lights, with the tree skirt covering my face, blacking out the pretty, luminescent bulbs. As soon as I realized that my fight with the tree was futile, I stopped kicking. My chest heaved from exertion. From the stereo came the sounds of Ricky's mandolin crazily picking out a maniacal version of "Deck the Halls." A vision of a grinning Charlie Manson doing a jig in the back of a hay wagon while wearing a Santa outfit flashed in my mind. Then the tree fell over. Then my wife and kids walked into the living room. Ah, the memories.

Forget that last paragraph. None of it ever happened. But I'll be happy to tell you about this disc. Ricky and his family have created a top-notch Christmas album. The instrumentation, as you would expect, is mostly bluegrass and country. The song selection is excellent, and the musicianship is impeccable. Is there such a thing as peccable? Anyway, this is a perfect choice for the Christmas holidays. Wait until you hear their version of "What Child is This?" Wow. It's so beautiful that it's hard for me to describe it. the vocals are other-worldly, and the use of the penny whistle and accordian give the song an old, Celtic, Greensleeves feel. I'd be hard put to name a prettier melody than that of "Greensleeves." Other highlights include versions of "Mary, Did You Know?" and Vince Guaraldi's "Christmas Time is Here."

There you have it. "A Skaggs Family Christmas" would be a fine addition to your Christmas collection. And...if you have made it this far through the article, you have put up with an undue amount of nonsense, and you deserve a big present. I hope you get it. And I hope you give far more than you receive this Christmas. Be sure to take all the love you've ever received in your life, multiply it by about one hundred, and turn it out on the world. Peace on earth, Good will to men.

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