Del McCoury is a rock star.
Bluegrass, like jazz, exists on the periphery of popular music. It possesses all of the elements that make popular music popular, melody, harmony, rhythm, beat, time, and content. Why, then, is bluegrass a fringe indulgence? I suspect that it is because this pure acoustic music never sold out to its electric counterparts. American country music, of which bluegrass is considered the country bumpkin cousin, has fractured in the past twenty years, opting for the more country rock-oriented path with varying degrees of commercial and critical success. Bluegrass, for its part, has subdivided and subdivided again to afford Mark O’Connor, Bela Fleck, David Grisman, Nickel Creek, Allison Kraus, etc. While remaining under the bluegrass revival tent, these artists have forged their separate and often very different ways.
Who is the Johannes Brahms of bluegrass, the keeper of the classical flame, innovating but never getting too far from the source? The answer is Del McCoury, and he is a rock star. McCoury has been the bluegrass standard bearer for the past 40 years, picking up the flag dropped by the death of Bill Monroe and extending Big Mon’s vision of traditional bluegrass in a traditional manner. McCoury has done this by extending bluegrass harmony beyond the traditional three-chord major and minor modes. There is much evidence of this on It’s Just The Night. The disc opener, "Dry My Tears and Move On," uses a 32-bar structure that could have been found in a Broadway Show. The lyrical matter boasts a homespun Bob Dylan as if it were Bill Monroe who wrote "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine" and called it "Dry My Tears..."
The lyrical content remains firmly in the bluegrass realm, more rural than pop-country but still more refined that the Carter Family. Trucks, farming, true country love, Jesus, and salvation are all present. The words are supported by this stellar quintet of mostly McCoury clan members. Dad plays guitar and provides the authentic "high lonesome" tenor. Sons Ronnie and Rob play mandolin and banjo, respectively. Their facility on their instruments is among the best in Nashville. Superb accompaniment.
It’s Just The Night
is recommended because of its pure acoustic quality and the brilliant invention of its songwriters and, of course, performers.
For more information, see Del McCoury Band and Sugar Hill Records .