Skaggs/Cooder/White | 07.20.15

skaggs sqThe band performed an evening of country, gospel, and bluegrass tunes—“Nothing younger than 1965,” quipped Skaggs at one point.


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Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, and Ry Cooder
Photo by Mike Schrand

The Sheldon Concert Hall, St. Louis

When KDHX’s Keith Dudding walked out on the stage to introduce the evening’s act, he said, “I don’t know what else I can say other than ‘Please welcome Ricky Skaggs, Ry Cooder, and Sharon White!’” The announcement of the show was a pleasant surprise, due to the extensive musical talent and experience of the three frontpersons in the group. 

Skaggs has been playing country and bluegrass since he was a child. He’s garnered over a dozen Grammys to his name in the past 30 years. Ry Cooder is the quintessential ethno-musicologist, exploring, playing, and producing albums about Cuba’s music scene and the Latino scene in Chavez Ravine (now Dodger Stadium), and has released a vast number of albums, both solo and in collaboration with other artists such as Captain Beefheart, Maria Muldaur, and Warren Zevon. Sharon White has spent much of her life playing with gospel/country vocal group the White Family. At the Sheldon show, the band was joined by Sharon’s sister, Cheryl (who sat in on backup vocals), and her father, Buck White (who sat in on piano and vocals). The ensemble was rounded out by Skaggs’ former Kentucky Thunder bassist Mark Fain and Cooder’s son Joachim on drums.

The band performed an evening of country, gospel, and bluegrass tunes—“Nothing younger than 1965,” quipped Skaggs at one point. The anticipation for the show was palpable, with musicians walking by the stage to see which instruments Cooder brought to the show, and some fans taking photos of the setlist and instruments. The group received a standing ovation as they came out onstage. The band played flawlessly and tastefully all evening, delivering songs by the Louvin Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs, and Hank Snow, among others.cooder 250

Skaggs was a consummate showman, playing fiddle, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar with finesse and melodic tastefulness. Cooder blended in perfectly with the band, delivering some spine-chilling slide guitar, and even one song on electric baritone mandolin. White was graceful and supportive, leading the band with her acoustic rhythm guitar. Cheryl White, Fain, and Joachim Cooder did a great job in being responsive and thoughtful in their playing, but the most pleasant surprise of the night was 84-year-old Buck White, who played piano with a mile-wide smile all evening. Almost every solo he turned in was inspired and beautiful, so much so that Skaggs and Cooder alluded to his incredible playing several times during the show.

While Skaggs has been visiting the Sheldon fairly regularly, Cooder hasn’t played St. Louis in years, so the show held a lot of anticipation and promise for what was to come; the band delivered on that anticipation, and then some. This show was a very special treat for the sold-out house that witnessed it. | Mike Schrand

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