It's a big deal when one of the most iconic bluegrass artists in the world comes to perform in your barn in the foothills of Culleoka, TN. And famed Christian singer David Phelps and family get the credit. But it was the lucky audience members who got the ultimate payoff in what can justly be described as an amazing concert from beginning to end.
Many a fan drove from out of state to see Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder perform at the Phelps Barn Bash Summer Nights. From the intimate farm venue to the superb sound, lighting and performances, no doubt many returned home feeling they were privy to a true treat, especially as a kick off to their Independence Day weekend.
With his strong tenor and warm personality, it's easy to see how David Phelps can attract such star power as Skaggs to play at his farm concerts. When Phelps sings, his voice fills the entire venue - whether it be in his own barn, a concert hall, church or even the White House, where he performed for President George W. Bush. Among the five songs Phelps performed at the Barn Bash, he sang America the Beautiful and God Bless America in honor of the 4th of July holidays.
Immediately following, the multi-awards winner and Kentucky native Ricky Skaggs came on stage with his six-man band Kentucky Thunder. At age 62, Skaggs' voice is stronger than ever, his mandolin skills unmatched and his joy for performing was obvious to all who had eyes to see and ears to hear.
Of Ricky Skaggs' string of top country hits, he played Highway 40 Blues. But he chiefly chose to concentrate on his gospel and bluegrass roots, paying homage to the "father of bluegrass" Bill Monroe. Among other songs Skaggs covered were Can't Shake Jesus, Toy Heart, Get On My Knees and Pray, and I Heard My Mother Call My Name in Prayer.
As impressive as Skaggs' musical talents were, so also were those of his band Kentucky Thunder, several of whom had solo performances and performed original songs. Clearly, not only is Ricky Skaggs a musical genius, but he also has the ability to hire and share the stage with other accomplished musicians.
But perhaps most impressive was the fact that he played in Culleoka as if he were performing at the Grand Ol' Opry, even staying late after the show to sign autographs and take pictures with every single person who stood in line, displaying a kindness and graciousness to his fans that can be a rare trait in stars these days.
David Phelps seemed to also notice, telling us: "It's really a dream come true to have Ricky Skaggs play at our barn. Fifteen-time Grammy award winner and just a sweet guy! I don't know if I've ever seen more talent on a stage anywhere. My favorite moment was when he commented to me back stage that it felt like a few revivals had happened in the barn. Hopefully that's a testament to our love of family. We've always wanted it to feel like you've come to a family reunion for family you didn't know you had."
Without a doubt, Phelps and his wife Lori have accomplished this goal. From the moment you arrive at their farm, you feel as though you are an invited guest, perhaps even part of the family. Prior to the doors opening, you can play checkers, grab a root beer, do a little shopping or simply relax in one of the seating areas and talk to other folk.
The Phelps bought the historic dairy farm in Culleoka about 10 years ago. It boasts a 200-year-old home on the farm; many generations have worked the earth and dairy cattle have grazed its hills. The Phelps renovated the barn for a concert video shoot, juxtaposing rustic beams and rusted lanterns with red velvet curtains and a formal chandelier.
The outcome was an ambient homegrown atmosphere that became the background setting for two live concert videos that both took the number-one spot on the Billboard Chart. This success gave Lori Phelps the idea to start a concert series, which began with an annual Labor Day Barn Bash, now in its 8th year, that hosts guests from all over the world for a two-day festival of food, music and friendship.
In 2016, they added the Christmas Barn Bash to kick off David's annual Christmas Tour. The weekend after Thanksgiving, Christmas fills the barn including, among other things, a live manager scene and Santa himself. This year, they started Barn Bash Summer Nights to fulfill their dream of bringing world-class artists to the foothills of Southern Middle Tennessee on the first Saturday of each summer month.
All is not lost if you missed the phenomenal Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder concert, as Restless Heart will play in August at the last Phelps Barn Bash Summer Nights.
And who knows, maybe Mr. Skaggs will be back sooner than later!
Click HEREfor more information about the Barn Bash Summer Nights.
Click to enlarge images below or go HERE to see them all in one location.