Album Reviews

The Del McCoury Band

Del and Woody

Artist:     The Del McCoury Band

Album:     Del and Woody

Label:     McCoury Music

Release Date:     04/15/2016


Where do legends turn for inspiration? If you’re Del McCoury, you look to icons like Woody Guthrie. The just-released Del and Woody CD features the lyrics of Woody Guthrie with music by Del McCoury. The result is words and imagery from a simpler time blended with the robust musicianship of the Del McCoury Band.

Woody’s place in American music is beyond reach; Del is bluegrass royalty. After playing in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in the early 1960s, McCoury continued to hone his talents while raising a family and working as a logger in his native Pennsylvania. His commitment to family paid off musically when sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo) joined with their dad to form the Del McCoury Band in 1981. A decade later, the McCoury clan was performing in Nashville and earning a reputation as the finest bluegrass band in the land. Del’s vocals won numerous bluegrass and country awards while Ronnie developed into a mandolin virtuoso. Joined by the equally regarded Jason Carter on fiddle, the band’s appeal grew beyond bluegrass disciples and attracted more mainstream followers. Today’s “Del Heads” include fans raised on rock, country, the Grateful Dead and Phish. The Del McCoury Band regularly appears at music festivals as diverse as the Newport Folk Festival and Bonnaroo.

Del McCoury at City Winery in 2014 by Lou Montesano
Del McCoury at City Winery in 2014 by Lou Montesano

Woody’s sense of time and place comes through most clearly in the album’s opening track, “The New York Trains.” A man from Texas awaits the arrival of his wife and children. “The trains run through the buildings and also underground,” Woody says, “and you spend another nickel every time you turn around.” The jangle of Rob’s banjo creates a carefree mood that runs counter to the growing discomfort of country folk overwhelmed by the big city. “If you come to New York City from the mountains, plains or hills,” the song concludes, “you better bring a wagonload of greenback dollar bills.”

Jason Carter’s fiddle complements the father and son finger-picking and high harmonies. “Left in This World All Alone” and “Because You Took Me in Out of the Rain” display the desperate and hopeful sides of loneliness, while “Family Reunion” touches on loss and the need to carry on: “If one of us blows somewhere with the winds, go on with your meeting, your drinking and eating.”

Songs like “Hoecake Fritters” might be strictly for the bluegrass faithful, but there is ample music of broad appeal on Del and Woody to make it an early piece of 21st Century Americana.

-Lou Montesano

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