Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sons of Del McCoury 'branch out,' with his blessing

By Walter Tunis Contributing Music Writer

Sons of Del take on diverse acts, with his blessing

The Travelin McCourys, from left: Jason Carter, Ronnie McCoury, Rob McCoury and Alan Bartram. The bluegrass band also has experimented with country, gospel and more.

Over the past year, four-fifths of the acclaimed Del McCoury Band — in essence, everyone save Del himself — hit the road to play collaborative performances with such stylistically diverse acts as country star Dierks Bentley and the gospel/groove ensemble The Lee Boys. There also have been plenty of shows that The Travelin' McCourys have played on their own with a quartet lineup augmented by guests drawn from a roster of champion guitar players.

And if that weren't enough, there has been some TV moonlighting by mandolinist Ronnie McCoury with Willie Nelson.

Now that's what you call travelin'.

"We're just trying to branch out a little bit," Ronnie McCoury said. "And my dad, with his blessing, wanted us to try something of our own."

"Dad" is Del McCoury, one of the most honored bandleaders and family men in the bluegrass music business. His career goes back to a tenure with Bill Monroe, but much of the elder McCoury's current reputation centers on an immensely industrious group, The Del McCoury Band, that enlisted the talents of sons Ronnie (on mandolin) and Rob (on banjo) along with longtime fiddler Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram.

The Del McCoury Band has always been something of an anomaly. It remains, at heart, a hard-core traditionalist unit built around expert musicianship and father Del's high-mountain tenor singing. But its repertoire and fan base are all over the map. Recordings boasted songs by Richard Thompson, Tom Petty and Robert Cray, while tours and festival dates regularly placed The Del McCoury Band onstage with esteemed jam bands Phish and String Cheese Incident.
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