Thursday, September 15, 2011

Del McCoury - Deeper Shade of Blue

Del goes emo.  Actually, Del is often kinda emo, but in this case he's making a whole album out of it.  This isn't a recent release - A Deeper Shade of Blue was released back in 1993 - but it's new to me, as they say.  Nobody epitomizes the high, lonesome sound better than Del McCoury, so this album largely choc-full of sad tunes is right in his wheelhouse.  There are fully five songs with the word "blue" in the title, so the album name is appropriate (though, oddly enough, son Ronnie takes the lead vocal on the title track).

Despite blue theme the band does get to show off its versatility, both in terms of the presentation of the songs and the sources of inspiration.  There's the requisite blazing Ronnie McCoury mandolin instrumental ("Quicksburg Rendezvous"), the weepy waltz ("More Often Than Once In a While"), and the propulsive opener "Cheek To Cheek With the Blues."  The band draws from rock (a terrific version of Jerry Lee Lewis' "What Made Milwaukee Famous"), country (Lefty Frizzell's "If You've Got the Money Honey"), and gospel ("I Know His Voice").  In a lot of ways, this is a paint-by-numbers Del McCoury album, but his is a group known more for delivery and passion than originality anyway.  Delivery and passion aren't a problem here; a great example is the tragic "Cold Cheater's Heart," where Del's mournful delivery is bolstered by atmospheric dobro.

Sure, the album does get blue at times, but there's always a bright moment around the corner, even when the lyrics are sad.  "I'm Lonely For My Only" is no cryin' in your beer tune; it's almost rock n' roll with bluegrass instruments, including a bluesy Ronnie McCoury mandolin solo that would make Keith Richards proud.  This is the great tension of bluegrass music; the high lonesome sound with the rhythm and blues backbeat.  Nobody hits that balance better than The Del McCoury Band.  This isn't their most perfect album, but it's plenty good.

Del McCoury Band official site

No comments: