By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

April 3, 2007

Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby
“Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby”
Grade: A

Well, well. The piano is a bluegrass instrument. At least it is in the hands of Bruce Hornsby.

Singer-songwriter-hitmaker Hornsby and bluegrass mandolin master Ricky Skaggs first got together a few years ago on a CD tribute to Skaggs' mentor, Bill Monroe, but it took time for this duets album to percolate.

Backed by Skaggs' insanely talented band Kentucky Thunder, the two join forces on several traditional numbers, a new Skaggs instrumental, some new Hornsby songs and a pair of hit tunes from Hornsby's catalog: the stunning "Mandolin Rain" and "A Night on the Town."

Hornsby, sporting a convincing mountain drawl, kicks off with the new "The Dreaded Spoon," an amusing account of the Hornsby siblings going to the Dairy Queen with their dad, who says he doesn't want anything but then mooches his kids' ice cream with the titular utensil pulled from the glove box.

Other Hornsby highlights include the new "Gulf of Mexico Fishing Boat Blues," featuring guest Jerry Douglas on dobro and Andy Leftwich on fiddle on the tale of a man on the run; and the gospel number "Come on Out" by Gordon Kennedy and Phil Madeira.

Skaggs scores with "Across the Rocky Mountain," "Stubb" and "Hills of Mexico."

This is very much a band record, however, with everyone taking their share of solos. Hornsby fits right in, his fluid right hand dancing amid the banjos, fiddles, guitars and mandolin.

Alas, the CD does not include two Hornsby songs the pair did on their recent CMT channel "Crossroads" episode: "The Valley Road," to which Hornsby first gave a bluegrass makeover with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1989; and the TV show opening number "The Way It Is," featuring jaw-dropping Hornsby solos. Catch it on reruns on CMT and high-def MHD.

But the CD does have "Super Freak" - yes, the Rick James funk hit in all its glory, including a campy cameo by John "Swingin'" Anderson.