Bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs celebrates marriage and music amid upcoming Brown County concert

Bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs and wife Sharon marked 41 years of sweet harmony days ago with a celebratory dinner in Nashville, Tennessee. One must surmise that they live what they sing in shared tunes such as “Hearts Like Ours” from 2014. On the chorus, the two vocally blend on a Valentine’s Day online clip spotlighting a disarmingly simple summary of their marital marathon:

Hearts like ours/Strong and true/So in love/That’s me and you.

The 68-year-old Skaggs brings his first love — or maybe his second, if you count his very public, Christian faith — to an Aug. 26 concert at Brown County Music Center in Nashville, just up the road from late, dear mentor Bill Monroe’s property where Skaggs played Monroe’s Bean Blossom festival for years.

He still harbors such respect for the bluegrass pioneer who died in 1996 that the musician refers to him as “Mr. Monroe.” He’s the man who brought a 6-year-old Skaggs onstage from the audience of a Kentucky concert and let the boy play Monroe’s revered mandolin to an ovation that launched the beginning of Skaggs’ legacy and mandolin magic.

“We and the band just love coming there,” Skaggs said from his Tennessee home. “Mr. Monroe left such an indelible mark in that area while he was still with us in bodily form.”

Meaning that, for Skaggs, Monroe’s indomitable spirit echoes amid the Brown County hills and hollers.

So he promises to include a Monroe tune or two in what figures to be maybe a 20-song, 80-minute set list. He acknowledged that could include the song, “Uncle Pen,” that was huge both for him and Monroe.

“And I’m sure we’ll be talking about him quite a bit,” he said.

Skaggs talks a lot about gratitude these days, including still touring with his longtime Kentucky Thunder band that he gushes about. The man who has earned 15 Grammy Awards and been inducted into every imaginable Hall of Fame possible — bluegrass, country, musicians, you name it — said he still has one reason to perform: joy, for both himself and others.

“And the band and I hope that, maybe for a couple of hours, that we can bring a sense of peace amid some of the division today,” he said.

Skaggs aims for that with a mix of music that stretches from bluegrass to country to gospel — and hard-to-define collaborations over the past decade or more with such varied artists as Christian pop singer Steven Curtis Chapman, jazz-oriented Bruce Hornsby, rock band Phish, pop singer Barry Gibb and others. Click on nearly any online video clip and Skaggs’ tenor vocals still seem in fine form.

Listen to passionate, haunting numbers such as “Can’t Shake Jesus” from recent shows and the artist seems to sing with his heart as much as anything. Quadruple-bypass surgery two years ago has left him literally weepingly grateful for his physical heart, too.

And like Monroe decades ago, Ricky Skaggs occasionally pulls youngsters from the audience to perform with him. That includes established artists of today such as Sarah Jarosz and Carson Peters. Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder then brought the fiddling, mandolin-playing Peters to one of their frequent Grand Ole Opry dates.

“He absolutely stole the show and was unbelievable,” Skaggs said of Peters. “Needless to say, I didn’t have to call the Opry to get Carson on anymore. They just started calling him.”

When Skaggs has the time at home, he’s a fairly accomplished photographer — enough so that he has exhibited at gallery spaces at performing arts centers and sold some his landscape shots from his music website.

“It doesn’t make any real money,” he said. “But it’s fun — and just another nice link to a creative gift.”

About the concert

Who: Bluegrass and country act Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.

When: 8 p.m. Aug. 26.

Where: Brown County Music Center, 200 Maple Leaf Drive in Nashville.