Cooder-White-Skaggs works family vibe
Donna Isbell Walker, [email protected] 11:56 a.m. EST November 13, 2015
The onstage chemistry at a Cooder-White-Skaggs concert flows not just from a shared musical passion.
The musicians are connected by blood, marriage, history, vocal harmony and enough critical acclaim to power all of the amps and microphones in the concert hall.
The titular musicians, performing Nov. 21 at the Peace Center, are multi-instrumentalist Ry Cooder, singer Sharon White and her husband, bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, but the supporting players have some heavy-duty credentials as well.
The drummer is Ry's son Joachim Cooder. Sharon White's father Buck and sister Cheryl, her partners in the country-gospel group the Whites, and Skaggs' longtime bass player Mark Fain are also part of the lineup.
"It's quite a family show, and we're doing real country music," Skaggs said in a recent phone interview. "Country music, gospel and bluegrass from the '40s, '50s and '60s, and it doesn't go much later than ‘ 65. ... We laughed and said the only thing newer than '65 is Joachim and Mark Fain."
The show might seem like one big legend-fest, but Skaggs, who performed with bluegrass icon Ralph Stanley as a teenager and later played in Emmylou Harris’’ Hot Band, shrugs off the idea that the musicians' pedigrees add pressure to the performance.
"I think of legends being real legends, like Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, and the Stanley Brothers. ... I might be a legend to my kids,” Skaggs said.
One thing that is especially interesting to Skaggs is the family dynamic that infuses the musical interactions. Skaggs and the Whites have played together often, but he wondered how Cooder would fit into the equation.
“The only thing we didn’t know coming into this was Joachim and Ry, how they yinged and yanged together on the road, but they love each other so much. Joachim just honors his dad, loves his dad so much, and Ry is just a great dad,” he said. “They’re fun people to be around, Different, but very very fun. And me and the Whites have known each other forever. … We’ve always been like little kids with each other, in our excitement, I’ll say. And we’re still that way.”
The show is structured with the three main musicians as a band, with Cooder and Skaggs playing guitar and mandolin, and Skaggs picking up the fiddle for the first time in decades.
Throughout the show, the musicians break off into duets, trios and quartets for various songs.
"That's been the great part about having Cheryl out, Sharon's sister, because she can handle one harmony part while Ry can sing bass. We asked the question to Ry, 'When you were growing up in south Santa Monica, did you ever think you'd be singing bass in a gospel quartet?' And he said, 'Yeah, I always knew it, but as a young child, you don't have the pipes. So you have to grow into it.'"
YOU CAN GO
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 21
Where: Peace Center
How much: $30-$60
For more: www.peacecenter.org