My first interaction with Del McCoury was back in July of 1998 at a little festival in Oswego, put on by a band called Phish. At the time I wasn't the huge bluegrass fan I am today, frankly I knew nothing about the genre of music. So when, in the middle of a great Phish set, this group of country singers came on stage to jam I wasn't pleased. Even after they left the stage, I considered that part of the set to be the "boring part," and was quite happy when Phish went back into some monster jams of their own.

Some time later I fell in love with bluegrass when I heard an album done by a band called Old & In The Way. Soon after, I went to my local library and borrowed every piece of bluegrass I could find and I burned it all. A few years later my bluegrass collection has become pretty hefty and I fell in love with Del and the boys through their album The Mountain, featuring singer Steve Earle. I couldn't get enough of that album and then I got The Family, which I enjoyed immensely as well. Upon listening to Del's latest album, It's Just the Night, I fell in love all over again.

If you haven't heard too much of Del's music, start by picking up this album. Listening to the haunting melodies and beautiful vocals I can understand why David Grisman called them "the best bluegrass band on the planet today." On this particular album, the music sounds vibrant and fresh and Del sings as if he has been rejuvenated. Recently finding out that he had been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, a dream of his since he was just a young boy, maybe Del actually has been rejuvenated. If there is a fountain of youth, Del has found it.

Starting off the album is "Dry My Tears," an old Richard Thompson tune that Del and his band re-worked into a fast paced bluegrass ditty. Strangely enough, not only do they start the album off with a Thompson tune, but they end with one as well, "Two-Faced Love," which is also re-worked into a traditional bluegrass tune. The album goes all over the place, with many covers, including a version of Delbert Mclinton's "Same Kind of Crazy as Me," along with some Gospel thrown in to spice things up (Track 11, "I can Hear the Angels Singing"). Various well known Nashville musicians and songwriters penned pretty much all of the songs on this album. As is always the case, the musicianship on this album is superb. Everyone in Del's band has won the IBMA player of the year award at least once for their respective instruments, and the band as a whole won the IBMA Entertainer of the Year Award again this year, their seventh time taking home that award.

You might think a man that has accomplished so much, been in the music business so long, and been on the road forever, might think about slowing down. Not Del McCoury. When he's on the road he's practically with his whole family, sons Ronnie and Robbie play in the band and his wife travels with them as well, acting as head of merchandise and answering lots of different questions from interested fans. This band is as much a pleasure to watch live as it is to just curl up on the couch and pop an album in. I truly enjoyed the storytelling and picture painting on this album. Del really takes you into his world with the lyrics, telling stories of old mining towns and kind old country folk. Any CD collection would be improved by adding It's Just the Night.

Sam Katz
JamBase | Boston
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[Published on: 10/26/03]

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