Anyone who thinks bluegrass music is just about doing songs performed by dead guys – but doing ’em faster, hasn’t heard the Del McCoury band. Their latest album on Ricky Skaggs’ Celli Music leads off with a rollicking rendition of the Richard Thompson song “’52 Vincent.” This is not a tune that lends itself to bluegrass, but in the hands of Del and the boys, it sounds like a natural.
The Del McCoury band is comprised of Delano Floyd “Del” McCoury on guitar and lead vocals, his oldest son, Ron, on mandolin, younger son, Rob, on banjo, Mike Bub on bass, and young fiddle wizard Jason Carter. While Del’s nasal twang gives the band a traditional backwoods sound, the instrumental pyrotechnics of the other band members are as musically modern as any third-stream jazz combo. This combination of old-time traditional forms and cutting-edge musicianship is what gives the band its unique sound. Its rendition of the old jazz standard “Learning the Blues” is a case in point; Dels’ vocal delivery has a simple rustic quality that contrasts nicely with Carter’s hot swing fiddle accompaniment. Another old country chestnut, Jeannie Pruett’s “Count Me Out,” sparkles with the McCoury band’s tight three-part harmonies. Ronnie McCoury’s original composition, “Goldbrickin,” has that Celtic twinge you find in many of Bill Monroe’s best instrumentals.
While it’s difficult to call any one band the best in a particular musical genre, this are arguably the finest, most innovative bluegrass band in the world today. Like their previous four albums, Del and the Boys is an instant classic and must-have for any bluegrass fan. See skaggsfamilyrecords.com
This review originally appeared in VG‘s Sep. ’01 issue.