Irish love affair for US country star Skaggs
LEGENDARY US country singer, Ricky Skaggs, said he adores Ireland's rich musical tradition - but admitted he once thought he'd freeze to death at an outdoor summer gig here.
The Kentucky-born star said he loved Ireland because so much of the modern US country and folk music tradition can be traced back to ancient Gaelic pipe and fiddle playing. He is also deeply fond of Ireland for personal reasons because, while touring with the band 'The Whites' here in 1979, he fell in love with his future wife, Sharon White.
"My first visit here was back in 1978 with Emmylou Harris. I was invited to a session afterwards, it was my first ceili, and I had an absolute ball. I thought I'd died and landed in eastern Kentucky," he said.
"I've played in Ireland many times since then and probably Lisdoonvarna stands out as a particularly good memory," he added.
"I played an outdoor concert here, I think it was in August or September, and I thought I was going to freeze to death it was so cold.
"But Ireland is one of my favourite places to perform. I've played with Matt Molloy (The Chieftains) and every time I visit I feel like I leave a little bit of myself behind."
Skaggs, who celebrated his 60th birthday last month, is in Ireland to headline the Masters of Tradition Festival in west Cork.
The event opens today and runs until Sunday in Bantry in west Cork including several showcase concerts in the historic Bantry House.
Over a glittering career Skaggs has won 14 Grammy awards and eight Country Music Association honours.