Editor’s note: Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs are featured on a new episode of CMT Crossroads debuting Saturday (Feb. 24) at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Bruce Hornsby’s new collaboration with Ricky Skaggs isn’t his first foray into bluegrass music. As a matter of fact, his initial bluegrass recording won a Grammy, an achievement that angered bluegrass purists.
Hornsby and Skaggs have recorded a new CD, High and Lonesome, to be released March 20 by Sony BMG/Legacy, and are performing together on a new episode of CMT Crossroads. The CD features original songs written by Skaggs and Hornsby, including a new version of Hornsby’s 1987 hit, “Mandolin Rain.” Hornsby’s original recording of the song climbed to the Top 10 of the pop chart and even reached No. 38 on the country singles chart.
However, Hornsby’s remake of one of his other Top 10 pop hits, “The Valley Road,” turned out to be a thorn in the side of some bluegrass purists. He recorded the song with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band for the group’s 1989 album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume 2.
During an interview at the CMT Crossroads taping, Hornsby said he got the idea for revamping “The Valley Road” after recalling Leon Russell’s collaborations with the genre-bending New Grass Revival.
“When he played with New Grass Revival, he took his songs and just sped them up double time,” Hornsby said. “He jacked them up. I decided to do my version of the Leon trip — which is to just speed it up. I just thought it would sound right.”
Hornsby wasn’t aware of any criticism until the new version of “The Valley Road” won the big award.
“I won the bluegrass Grammy,” Hornsby said. “It pissed off all the purists. And I understand their feeling about this. Here’s this pop guy, and he’s making this quasi-bluegrass. I totally understood the purists’ protest.”
Skaggs and Hornsby had not yet met in 1989 when Hornsby received the Grammy, but he was aware that some bluegrass fans were unhappy about the award.
“I had heard that it happened, but I was still playing country music at the time,” Skaggs said. “The purists were a little angry about it. But, you know, it was a great cut. It was a great song, and you did it well.”
For CMT Crossroads, they reprise the faster version of the song, but Skaggs handles the lead vocals.
“It’s just the right way to go,” Hornsby told Skaggs. “It’s right in your wheelhouse, as they say.”