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Del McCoury Band: Bill Monroe Tribute Album


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This September marks the 100th anniversary of Bill Monroe's birth, and not surprisingly, there have already been plenty of tributes to the Father of Bluegrass Music, with more still to come. But when listeners turn to Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe—released digitally September 27 with a vinyl release following on October 25—what they hear won't be the result of a carefully crafted campaign, but the result of a decision that was as spontaneous as it was inevitable—because for Del McCoury, Bill Monroe's legacy isn't just a matter of history, but something that's as immediate and personal as the guitar he picks up every time he gets ready to play.

The result is a set that perfectly captures the essence of Bill Monroe's music—and does it in a way that stands head and shoulders above the crowd. For when Del McCoury lifts his voice to sing “In Despair" or “Live And Let Live," what comes out is what he learned to sing standing next to Monroe on stage, tempered by another few decades of bluegrass tradition; when he tackles a song like “Heavy Traffic Ahead," he remembers his brother bringing that 78 RPM record home from the store when it was first released; and when he harmonizes with son Ronnie on the Monroe-Hank Williams gem, “I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome," family and tradition blend perfectly as he sings the master's part while Ronnie takes over the part Del used to sing himself with Monroe.

Backed as always by his ace Del McCoury Band-son Ronnie on the mandolin, son Rob on the banjo, along with long-time fiddler Jason Carter and six year veteran Alan Bartram on bass-McCoury works his way through a generous 16-track set that nods to the show he played with Monroe by starting with a quick “Watermelon On The Vine" and concluding with a bit of a favorite closer, “Y'all Come." In between there are well-known classics like “Close By" and “Rose Of Old Kentucky," obscurities like the Hank Williams-penned “Alabama Waltz," rarities like “The Girl In The Blue Velvet Band" and “Train 45"-Monroe was one of the few to record the tune with lyrics—and much more.

But whether they're staples of the bluegrass repertoire or resurrected rarities, what each has in common is an incomparable authenticity, bestowed in equal measure by Del McCoury's personal connection to Monroe and his music, and by his unalloyed musical integrity. And in the end, that makes Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe not just the tribute to Bill Monroe that it's intended to be, but a tribute, too, to the newest member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame—Del McCoury.

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