Del McCoury Band
Del and the Boys
The Music Box's #10 album for 2001
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2002, Volume 9, #11
Written by John Metzger
Since settling upon its current line-up in 1993, the Del McCoury Band has established itself firmly as the finest bluegrass outfit touring today. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. With its recent effort Del and the Boys, however, the ensemble makes the case that it should be considered one of the finest jam bands as well. For certain, the Del McCoury Band has had a little rock ínĎ roll thunder in its soul for quite some time. After all, the group recorded an entire album with country renegade Steve Earle and has recorded songs by the likes of Tom Petty, John Sebastian, and most recently Richard Thompson. But where the bandís albums have made for the most outstanding bluegrass fare, Del and the Boys pushes the quintet over the edge and into new territory.
This change isnít found within the actual instrumentation, which remains entirely acoustic in nature. Instead, this transformation is one of attitude and can be found more subtly within the musiciansí fiery interplay and Del McCouryís passionate vocals. Most notable is the ever-changing, ever-growing mandolin style of the talented Ronnie McCoury. In fact, there are times throughout Del and the Boys when his fluid riffs sound like the direct descendent of the Grateful Deadís lead guitarist Jerry Garcia. This undoubtedly is a product of McCouryís association with fellow mandolin player and long-time Garcia cohort David Grisman, but whatís interesting is the way in which McCoury digests Garciaís style and incorporates it into his own musical dialogue. He feeds this into the fray created by the gentle pitter-patter of Mike Bubís bass and the steady strum of father Delís guitar. And, itís there where it joins the slithering slipstream of Jason Carterís fiddle and the punchy pluck of brother Robís banjo in an incendiary, yet graceful, ballet set to a swirling, aqueous sea of sonic splendor.
Indeed, bluegrass bands arenít supposed to be this adventurous, and those that do make the attempt generally fall victim to the same problems of long-winded, go nowhere jams that plague much of the jam band scene. But with Del and the Boys, the Del McCoury Band has created an album firmly entrenched in the traditions of bluegrass, yet full of the bold explorations, Technicolor textures, and high-spirited flights for which most improvisational outfits strive. In other words, it should please fans from both sides of the aisle, proving that one can have his cake and eat it too.
Del and the Boys is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2002 The Music Box