Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March 11: Del McCoury, "Del And The Boys"

Artist: Del McCoury
Album: Del And The Boys
Year: 2001
Label: Hollywood

First off, there are HUGE differences between country music, western music, and bluegrass. This is an essential fact that most people cannot get past. Now that you've dealt with the fact that anyone singing with a "southern twang" isn't necessarily singing "country music," let's move on, shall we?

What do you do when you feel you've made all the solo records you feel you can? Simple; get your children, and make a record with them. If your children are young, it may not work well. However, if your sons happen to be accomplished musicians in their own right, it can produce extraordinary results. After four decades of being one of the finest bluegrass musicians on the planet, Del McCoury went into the studio with his sons and recorded one of the finest albums of his career, 2001's aptly titled Del And The Boys.

Del McCoury has been a music legend for over forty years, so it's no surprise that his sons, Rob and Ronnie are equally brilliant musicians. While many "classic" musicians have attempted to "modernize" their sound to stay relevant, Del keeps things as old school as they get. Extremely simple production, nearly all acoustic instrumentation, and no overdubs keeps a very warm and full sound on Del And The Boys. The album beams with an inviting aura and it proves that their is real magic in simplicity. To further this point, at their live shows, the band uses a single vocal microphone, and most of the time, only one or two mics on stands to capture the sound of their instruments (if any).

Like most bluegrass, a majority of the songs on Del And The Boys are about loneliness, loss, and love...with some scattered religious overtones. Each and every song on the album is fantastic and the mood and tempo are varied and keeps things fresh. The songs feature lightning fast fiddle picking, banjo, mandolin, and guitar as well as some of the most soulful instrumentation around. The fact is, Ronnie McCoury may very well be the greatest mandolin player in history. The case for this nomination is highlighted on the song, "Goldbrickin'." From the heartbreaking opening tale of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" to the sing-songy "The Bluegrass Country," the album represents and presents everything that is great about the bluegrass genre.

Del McCoury has one of the most unique voices you'll ever hear. While with many artists, the "country twang" in the voice is more of a distraction in their singing, Del has honed it perfectly over the decades and it provides a beautiful mood and authenticity (since he is as bluegrass as they get) on the songs. Without any filters or effects in the way, Del sings clear as a bell and, even at seventy years old, his vocal range and delivery is stunning. The harmonies with the rest of the band give a very "campy" feeling and it is obvious that the entire band had a blast recording the album. Fellow legend Ricky Skaggs also makes a few appearances on the record, lending some backing vocals.

When you're pushing seventy years old, nobody will call you out for packing up your guitar and calling it a career. The fact that, not only is Del McCoury still making records, but he still sounds as amazing as ever and it is a testament to his prowess as a musician. Keeping things simple and not over-producing the album provides an environment where the music is able to shine in all its glory. Attempting to turn a new generation onto the sounds of bluegrass, he enlisted his sons and, as a group, they whipped out one of the most enjoyable bluegrass records in years. Each and every song is pure joy to experience and everyone should have Del And The Boys in their collection.

Standout tracks: "All Aboard," "The Bluegrass Country," and "Travelin' Teardrop Blues."

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