Del McCoury Band
Little Mo' McCoury
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by John Metzger
Sat August, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Although its artists tend to favor dark and mournful tales about life and love, the bluegrass scene itself is immersed within a wholesome, family-oriented atmosphere, thanks to the backwoods charm that is exuded by its many festivals and gatherings. Consequently, it’s hard to believe that it hasn’t produced more efforts along the lines of Little Mo’ McCoury. Fusing traditional tunes for kids, such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Fox, and The Big Rock Candy Mountain, with an eclectic array of other material that stretches from the Carter Family’s Jimmy Brown the Newsboy to Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me, the Del McCoury Band corrects this oversight with genuinely pleasing results.
Shepherded to completion by mandolinist Ronnie McCoury — who also composed the collection’s lone original tune (My Friend, My Guitar), a touching tale of a Christmastime gift that changed his life — Little Mo’ McCoury strikes an easy-going gait that is completely devoid of pretense, preachiness, and condescension. Unafraid to sound downright ridiculous, the Del McCoury Band embraces the silliness of Earl Scruggs’ Mama’s Blues and Jimmy Martin’s Goin’ Ape (Over You). That’s not to say, however, that Little Mo’ McCoury is devoid of missteps. This Old Man is tedious, at best, and although the choruses of kids voices are kept to a minimum, the out-of-tune, off-kilter vocalizations that are affixed to the conclusions of I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, and Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land mar the group’s otherwise superb interpretations of the songs. In the case of the latter tune, at least, the sing-along serves to drive home the point that America’s future is, as always, in the hands of its children.
Fortunately, because the Del McCoury Band approached the endeavor in a fashion that is similar to how it tackles its adult-oriented projects, the bulk of Little Mo’ McCoury is positively stellar. There’s a playful spring in the ensemble’s step as it winds its way through Bob Dylan’s Man Gave Names to All the Animals as well as Jesse Fuller’s Monkey and the Engineer, while the brisk, driving pulse of Jim Davis and Don Reno’s Barefoot Nellie gives the group an opportunity to show off its virtuosic chops. Throughout the affair, the Del McCoury Band’s harmonies shimmer and sparkle as the musicians maintain their focus on concocting intricate instrumental passages, which play subtly alongside the kid-centered lyrics. It, therefore, is readily apparent that Little Mo’ McCoury was born as much out of the band’s fondness for the material as it was from its love of its children and grandchildren. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box