Ricky Skaggs is keeping quiet about which stars he’s lined up for Big Mon, his projected two-album, cross-format tribute to Bill Monroe. But he’s more than willing to talk about the artists he aspires to work with himself.
His top choices, he says, are Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
Already, Skaggs — a six-time Grammy winner — has recorded and performed with such non-country heavyweights as James Taylor, Elvis Costello and the Chieftains. But he has other dream sessions in mind.
“I would like to work with McCartney because of his singing style and his appreciation and knowledge of old music,” Skaggs says.
“Stevie Wonder is another one,” he continues. “He’s such a spiritual being. He’s a lot like Ray Charles. He is to Ray Charles what maybe I am to Bill Monroe. There’s that father-son, next-generation impartation. Ray’s still around and still playing and singing great, but Stevie has that mantle, that Ray Charles thing.”
It’s Wonder’s complete musicality, Skaggs says, that most enchants him. “He and the piano or his harmonica are just like one voice. You can’t separate the two. He’s just totally all music all the time. Even when he talks, he’s talking in rhythm. He’s so full of music, and I love that. I’d love to get to be involved with him in that.”
Skaggs also admires Bruce Hornsby for his awareness and use of “the rich heritage” of earlier music. “He really appreciates Leon Russell and Keith Jarrett,” Skaggs observes. “He loves the roots of that. But he also loves bluegrass. When I hear him play the piano, it sounds like a banjo player. You can tell that he loves Earl Scruggs.”