Del McCoury Band | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Del McCoury Band 


With the recent passing of Bill Monroe, the undisputed father of bluegrass, it's hard not to view Del McCoury--who played and sang in Monroe's band in the 60s--as the music's most vital living proponent. Most modern bluegrass artists have opted either for post-Alison Krauss airbrushed gloss or post-Bela Fleck wankery, but McCoury has managed to stay moored to the tradition without coming off as a moldy old fig. On his superb new album, The Cold Hard Facts (Rounder), McCoury even transforms Tom Petty's sulky "Love Is a Long Road" into a searing, ebullient breakdown. Most of the time, however, McCoury sticks with solid originals or classic bluegrass and country material, such as a winning romp through the Ray Price hit "I'll Be There." All five members of the band--his sons Rob and Ronnie on banjo and mandolin, Jason Carter on fiddle, Mike Bub on bass, and Del on guitar--were each recently nominated as instrumentalists in International Bluegrass Music Awards (an unprecedented achievement), but there's no indulgent flashiness heard in the music. The band's most valuable instrument is without a doubt Del McCoury's high lonesome voice. It drips with vulnerability, quavering on the sad songs and threatening to break apart with joy on the upbeat numbers. If there's a contemporary group that can change the minds of nonbelievers it's this one. Also performing are sturdy bluegrass vets the Osborne Brothers. Saturday, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 909 W. Armitage; 773-525-7793.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/ Jim McGuire.

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