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Del McCoury, "I Need More Time" (Spring, 2016)

I Need More Time - The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band, for years, has been (if I had to pick one) my favorite group in bluegrass, but his band has never been truly traditional (for modern "tradition," nobody's ever outdone the Johnson Mountain Boys in the 1980s/1990s). The greatest Newgrass band of all time, New Grass Revival, would use bluegrass instruments and techniques on just about any genre, with bluegrass being but a small fraction of their repertoire. McCoury has always stretched tradition, but not too far that it couldn't snap right back into orthodoxy on their next tune.

It helps that his band has been extraordinary for a quarter century, since fiddler Jason Carter signed on, joining McCoury and his sons, superb banjoist Rob McCoury, and mandolinist Ronnie McCoury. Ronnie is a mandolinist with a bluesy core to his soloing, and an imagination and technique that places him in my all-time top-5 mandolinists list (with Thile, Bush, Statman, and father Bill). The "Youngsters" (compared to their 77-year-old bandleader/dad) bring a whiff of Newgrass unpredictability to arguably traditional bluegrass so beautifully that the seams never show, not easy when grafting styles together, even closely-related ones.

One thing worth mentioning is Del's voice. I know nobody who doesn't love his voice -- or hate it. There's little in-between with a voice like his. Many consider him the all-time greatest pure high-lonesome bluegrass voice, and I'm in that camp. Non-fans hear a nasal, grating sound. But to me, his singing is as expressive as it gets.

Anyway, blah blah but all this came to mind today when I was driving around with Ben and, once again, was goosebump'd by one of the most powerful tracks Del's ever made, from a couple of years ago. It's on the album, The Streets of Baltimore, and like literally every single album Del has ever made (and yep, I have them all, 30-something discs by now, maybe 40), it is wonderful. The guy and his band never phone it in. And finally, the point of this rambling is the track, I Need More Time (written by Verlon Thomson, whose version I also love though not quite as much). Plain and simple, a profound song brilliantly done by an amazing band.

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