Buck White his family band, The Whites, featuring daughters Cheryl and Sharon White, were one of the great traditionally oriented country-bluegrass bands of the 1970s and '80s. For decades, the Whites have woven a path between country and bluegrass, creating a delicate mix of the two. They had a string of surprising commercial hits in the early 1980s, but since then have receded into comfortable cult-favorite status... Sharon White married country-bluegrass star Ricky Skaggs, who they had worked with on several of their records


Buck White "...And The Down Home Folks" (County, 1972)

Buck White And The Down Home Folks "That Down Home Feeling" (Ridge Runner, 1977) (LP)
The Whites were a fine latter-day example of the traditional bluegrass family band; they played and toured regularly, but still had an unpolished, amateurish air about them which made them seem all the more authentic and appealing... They also hung out with some real musical heavyweights, as this early album amply demonstrates. Roland White plays guitar, Butch Robbins strums the old banjo, the ubiquitous Jerry Douglas plucks the dobro, and his Boone Creek bandmate Ricky Skaggs saws the fiddle... It was Skaggs who would have the longest connection with the Whites: he worked on several later albums, and married Buck's daughter, Sharon White, who sings lead vocals on many of these songs. The approach is decidely "down home," (i.e. imperfect, but kind of on purpose) and the song selection ranges from traditional to whimsically un-bluegrass numbers like Mac Davis's "I Believe In Music" and a striking version of Jose Feliciano's "Rain." I like Buck White's voice and the harmony sections, though I have to confess I find the solo female voices a bit weak; on the whole, though, this is quite nice -- heartfelt and unpretentious, worth a spin or two!

Buck White And The Down Home Folks "Poor Folks' Pleasure" (Sugar Hill, 1978) (LP)
This album is typical of the seeming schitzophrenia of the White family's game plan... The album art loudly proclaims their down-homedness, but the music inside seems like a sincere effort to make their mark in the syrupy countrypolitan scene of the late 1970s, particularly on mellow tracks such as the album's opener, "The Cowboy Lives Forever," and "Poor Folks Pleasure," which starts off Side Two, both written by the album's producer. There's also a cover of Karla Bonoff's "Home," which is a fine song, but the Whites' version doesn't add anything that prior recordings by Bonoff or Bonnie Raitt didn't already provide. All in all, this is one of their least "country" offerings, probably still of interest to fans, but not their most riveting record.

The Whites "Live At The Old Time Pickin' Parlor" (County, 1977)

The Whites "More Pretty Girls Than One" (Sugarhill, 1979) (LP)

Ricky Skaggs "Family & Friends" (Rounder, 1982)
When Ricky gets back to his roots, he can be oh-so sweet. This was his big "hey-I've-still-got-it" traditionalist bluegrass album, made when he first was having success as a Top 40 country act. If you want to be snooty, you could find fault with its smooth production, but overall this is solid and fun to listen to. Includes several great bluegrass oldies, and the usual cast of high-power newgrass pickers and plunkers. Sweet!

The Whites "Old Familiar Feeling" (Warner Brothers, 1983) (LP)

The Whites "Whole New World" (Curb, 1985) (LP)
(Produced by Ricky Skaggs)

A 'grass-tinged stab at mainstream country, with Buck taking a back seat (he sings on a couple of tunes, and plays some piano) and the gals handling most of the vocal chores... The album is produced by Ricky Skaggs, who at the time was at the height of his own commercial success, and his touch is indelibly stamped on each song... Plus, a bunch of his old pickin' pals are on here -- Jerry Douglas, Lloyd Green, Bobby Hicks, Mark O'Connor, etc. -- and with talent like that, it's gonna be easy to get the right results. It's a fairly good record -- there was really only so far you could go with the Whites, who were inherently a fairly rough-edged and rural family act, and this set pushes them about as far into commercial territory as anyone'd really want to hear. Worth checking out.

The Whites "Forever You" (MCA, 1985) (LP)

The Whites "Ain't No Binds" (MCA, 1987) (LP)

The Whites "Doing It By The Book" (Word, 1988)
An all-gospel offering, featuring the fine harmony vocals of this long-lived family band.

The Whites "Give A Little Back" (Step One, 1996)

The Whites "A Lifetime In The Making" (Ceili, 2000)
A sort-of back-to-basics bluegrass outing with some assist from Sharon White's hubby (and Ceili label owner) Ricky Skaggs... These mellow, folk-tinged tunes may be too sugary for some, but they are certainly in keeping with their earlier albums of the 1970s and '80s. Jes' plain folks making some pretty flowery music.

Ricky Skaggs "A Skaggs Family Christmas" (Skaggs Family, 2005)

Ricky Skaggs "A Skaggs Family Christmas, v.2" (Skaggs Family, 2011)
(Produced by Billy Paul Jones & Charlotte Scott)

One of the preeminent contemporary bluegrass stars, born-again bandleader Ricky Skaggs has also has impressive bona fides as a Christian musician, and mixes several religious music styles on this joyful live holiday album. There are straightforward holiday standards, such as the album's bouncy, bluegrassy opener, "Christmas Time's A-Coming," alongside tracks that dig deeper into Biblical teachings and church-ier Southern Gospel arrangements. Skaggs' extended family is on board, including his wife's family band, The Whites, with sisters Sharon and Cheryl and papa Buck White, as well as the new generation, Ricky and Sharon's kids Luke and Molly, as well as Cheryl's daughter Rachel Leftwich (who is apparently married to Andy Leftwich, the fiddler in Ricky's band Kentucky Thunder. You catch all that? I know family ties can get confusing... I can go over it again if you'd like...) Anyway, this is a rock-solid record, with a solid foundation in the not-too-dour bedrock fundamentalism of the Skaggs Family clan, but also some lighter holiday fare for folks who like to sing along. Also included is a second disc, a bonus DVD with the entire concert, about three times as much music as the audio disc, and a nice chance to see not just Skaggs in action, but the often-neglected Whites as well. Happy holidays!


The Whites "Greatest Hits" (Curb, 1987)
This is the best of their mainstream commercial country work, including a string of Top 40 chart entries, some with a tinge of their bluegrass roots still in the mix. Ricky Skaggs, whose own star was ascendant at the time, produced most of these records.


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