Del McCoury Band | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Del McCoury Band 

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In the last few years bluegrass veteran Del McCoury has found an enthusiastic new audience among the citizens of the jam-band nation. I'm not surprised: with prog-grass bands like Leftover Salmon and the String Cheese Incident proliferating like so many weeds, those listeners have got to be hungry for a musician who knows that hot-shit playing is meaningless without solid songwriting and terrific singing. McCoury's embraced his recent success on his own terms--onstage his band still wears crisp suits, sings and plays unamplified, and harmonizes around a mike or two. They'll occasionally play the odd rock cover, but their repertoire is deeply traditional, and on their superb new album, The Company We Keep (McCoury Music/Sugar Hill), McCoury's still singing about simple pleasures and timeless sorrows. On "Never Grow Up Boy" he reminisces about playing for five decades and enduring a lot of lean years, singing, "I played in churches, fairs, and dive bars / I ain't never gonna act my age"; on "She Can't Burn Me Now" he's certain that he won't get sucked into a destructive romance one more time. Better than the songs themselves are the ways McCoury inhabits them, imparting a familial warmth on "Fathers and Sons" and delivering folksy wisdom on "Nothin' Special." Of course it helps that he fronts a killer band--fiddler Jason Carter, bassist Mike Bub, and McCoury's sons Ronnie on mandolin and Rob on banjo--that's played together for 12 years without a lineup change. Though they are the proverbial hot shit, they never grandstand; their self-effacing charm has helped make them the most consistently enjoyable bluegrass band I've seen over the past 15 years. Cheryl Wheeler opens. This show is part of "Pickin' & Biddin' 2005," a benefit for Old Town School of Folk Music programs; a silent auction begins at 6:30 PM. Sat 10/22, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-751-3320 or 773-751-3343, $150. All ages.

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