Concert Review

Why I Love Bluegrass: Del McCoury Band

I received the privilege of attending a traditional bluegrass show last night.  I watched the Del McCoury Band perform at Lincoln Theatre Friday, June 4. This show reminded of why I enjoy bluegrass:

  • The way all of the men in the band dress. The coat and tie get me every time.
  • Each musician looks like he is completely enjoying himself.
  • Each instrument gets a solo—in every song!
  • Simple lyrics get the point across (yep, you’re in love… okay, you’re sad… oh, you’re drunk…) and complex instrumentals make every song into a masterpiece.
  • The adoration of fans from every walk of life.  This show was full of older folks who had probably followed Del McCoury since the 60s,  Southern men in camouflage hats,  hip 20-somethings new to the scene, and of course, me (DJ Mollypop) and my bluegrass companion, Rob.

Del McCoury just celebrated 50 years of making music, starting out as a Pennsylvanian banjo player and making it to Nashville decades later with his music-making sons. Del and his band have earned numerous awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

Called “the best bluegrass band, period” by fellow musicians, this show epitomizes why I love bluegrass.  They played older originals like “Rain and Snow,” even older bluegrass tunes, such as “Bluegrass Breakdown” and “Get on Your Knees and Pray,” and covered a few famous songs by artists like Willie Nelson and Slim Whitman. Del and his band played songs “Hello Lonely” and “I Remember You” off their new album, Family Circle.

McCoury senior kept up a lively banter with the audience, whether it be to admit that he forgot the lyrics, or to take shouted requests. He introduced the members like a proud father (or father figure): Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Rob McCoury on banjo, Jason Carter on fiddle, and Alan Bartram on bass.  These boys were all significantly younger than him, but I think even they sometimes had a hard time keeping up with 71 year old Del McCoury.

Inspiring to any musician, Jason Carter worked with a broken string in the last song of their two-song encore; he quickly re-tuned his violin to make up for the lost E string and finished off the song with the rest of the band impeccably.

Maybe it’s the suits, maybe it’s the smiles, maybe it’s just the twang, but the multiple standing ovations the Del McCoury Band received Friday night proves their place in bluegrass.