Del McCoury is in the rare position of being an elder statesman in his field who happens to be in the prime of his career. One of the godfathers of bluegrass, he’s been around since pretty much the beginning. He now leads a resurgence in the ‘grass universe, towering above it with down-home charm, might tasty pickin’, and a tireless touring schedule. Of course, having one of the most talented backing bands in the biz helps keep you on top, and that’s where Del is until he decides otherwise. While the touring continues unabated, he does stop from time to time to offer up an album or two, and his newest, The Company We Keep, feels like just that – a detour from the true path on the road, with his band behind him and an adoring audience in front of him.

The album is, interestingly enough, largely autobiographical. It speaks of long stretches of life spent on the road in small music clubs on “Never Grow Up Boy,” of the relationships of fathers and sons (Del’s band includes his two sons, Ronnie and Robbie, on mandolin and banjo) on “Fathers And Sons,” and of his faith on “I Never Knew Life.” While it’s interesting to hear McCoury sing about his life in this manner, in the end, the songs just aren’t that interesting, and “I Never Knew Life” is downright painful to listen to. I get enough evangelicalism in my daily news, no need for it in my bluegrass. Del would do better to mimic his live show where, he’s the center of attention, but his band takes on the grunt work. On The Company We Keep, we don’t get enough of a feel for the incredible musicianship that makes them the Del McCoury Band and not just Del McCoury. There are moments here and there, but overall, I hate to say it, the album is pretty boring. Save your money for the concert tickets!

Aaron Stein
JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 7/15/05]

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