The Del McCoury Band
Del and the Boys
The Del McCoury Band won a lot of new fans when they collaborated with Steve Earle a couple of years ago on his album The Mountain. Now with bluegrass music seeing a remarkable resurgence in the wake of the success of the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, it’s time for these guys to take over the world. Okay, maybe not this world. Perhaps it’s too much to hope for that Britney Spears fans will hear Del’s high lonesome voice or Ronnie McCoury’s blistering mandolin and come to appreciate real talent. But for a few million other music listeners there may still be hope.
Once again proving themselves skilled interpreters of music from other idioms, the band this time out tackles Richard Thompson’s classic bad boy/great motorcycle tale “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” The song’s Boxhill, England locale humorously becomes Knoxville in the McCoury version. While it may not have the same drama as RT’s version, this one’s got all the essential McCoury elements including Jason Carter’s fiddle, Rob McCoury’s loping banjo and Mike Bub’s anchoring upright bass line.
The band also tackles a tune Frank Sinatra once performed on the jazz standard “Learnin’ The Blues.” The ghost train tale “All Aboard” travels so fast it sounds like it could go off the rails at any moment but these guys are pros. Kentuckian Ricky Skaggs joins in on harmonies on “The Bluegrass Country,” on which Del pines for the birthplace of the high lonesome sound. Ronnie McCoury penned the tour de force instrumental “Goldbrickin’,” which goes to unexpected places displaying incredible musicianship throughout. And listening to his mandolin work on “Gone But Not Forgotten,” you may get the same chills you had the first time you heard Eddie Van Halen.
Steve Martin used to joke that it’s impossible to do a sad song on the banjo. To that end, “The King’s Shilling” may be the cheeriest song you’ll ever hear about a guy lost at sea.
Two Del McCoury originals are also solid including “A Good Man Like Me,” which requires a pretty unbelievable vocal range, and the waltz-like “Unequal Love.” And the record wraps up with a great road song to send you on your way, “Travelin’ Teardrop Blues.” Can’t ask for more than that.