Salt of the Earth

by: Ricky Skaggs & the Whites

Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2007, so it's a wonder it took that long for them, along with Sharon's sister Cheryl White, and Buck White, the sisters' dad, to record a full album together. On their own, the Whites have proven a consistently strong outfit, flitting easily between bluegrass, mainstream country, and mostly gospel, and it's within that last genre that the 13 songs of Salt of the Earth reside. Skaggs, meanwhile, has proven for decades a master not only of anything remotely country, but virtually everything he's tried his hand at -- his recent collaboration with keyboardist Bruce Hornsby even found the two of them reconstructing Rick James' funk anthem "Super Freak"! Salt of the Earth is not about experimentation though, it's about tradition. These are all simple tales of faith and conviction, using the basic acoustic instrumentation of guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and bass. Nothing electric, nothing noisy, just wood and strings. But not surprisingly it's the vocal harmonies that dominate the proceedings throughout. Lead vocals are taken by each of the four, and the tight harmonies that have brightened all of the Whites' previous efforts are in ample supply here. While it's true that Skaggs and the Whites add nothing new to standards like "This Old House," "Wings of a Dove," and "Let it Shine," they don't really need to: they just give these chestnuts everything they've got, and that's plenty. ~ Jeff Tamarkin

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