When Ricky Skaggs and his wife Sharon White bested nominees like Dan Seals and Marie Osmond and Gary Morris and Crystal Gayle to claim the 1987 CMA Vocal Duo of the Year award for their song “Love Can’t Ever Get Better Than This,” both fans and industry gatekeepers were expecting the pair to follow up with an entire album of tasty duets. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. . .until now. On September 30th Hearts Like Ours releases on Skaggs Family Records, and though it was a long, long time coming, the country-bluegrass couple says it was worth the wait.
“The obvious thing in 1987, when we had Duo of the Year, was to build on that and take advantage of it,” says Skaggs seated close to his wife in their Hendersonville, Tennessee, office. “But looking back at it now, we’d been married for about six years at that time, and as driven as we both were. . .we would have looked at a duet project to try to sell records and we would have done it trying to find songs that radio would have played, which would have limited so many of the songs.”
Instead of crafting a calculated effort geared toward the radio expectations of that era, the couple took their time and created a labor of love. Now married for 33 years with two grown children, Hearts Like Ours is a deeply textured collection of songs buoyed by years of shared experience. “At times I just didn’t think it would ever happen,” admits White. “I thought it was a dream that would never come true.”
Raising their children, Molly and Luke, and tending separate successful careers kept Skaggs and White busy and relegated any duets album to the back burner. White has long performed with her father, Buck, and sister, Cheryl, as the Whites. Well known for such hits as “You Put the Blue in Me,” “Hangin’ Around” and “Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling,” the trio are perennial favorites at the Grand Ole Opry and appeared in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the 2000 film that reignited interest in old-timey country sounds. Skaggs has won numerous awards, among them 14 Grammys, 11 IBMA Awards and eight CMAs, including Entertainer of the Year in 1985. After his streak of 12 Number One singles ended at country radio with 1989’s “Lovin’ Only Me,” the Kentucky native returned to his bluegrass roots and has faithfully carried the torch passed to him by the legendary Bill Monroe.
So what was the catalyst to finally record their long-awaited collaboration album? “We were booked to do a couples event,” White explains. “They wanted some singers to do music and give testimony. So we went in and cut five songs, and the idea was we’d have some tracks [to use at the event]. We got pretty deep into it and then the event was cancelled, but it was such an enjoyable experience we decided to finish and record a whole CD.”