Del McCoury

The Best of Del McCoury: The Groovegrass Years

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Del McCoury has been one of the most respected talents in bluegrass since joining Bill Monroe's Virginia Mountain Boys in the 1960s, and his profile began rising steadily through the '80s when he signed with Rounder Records and released a handful of fine albums for the label. McCoury parted ways with Rounder in 1996 as he finally began to break out to audiences beyond the bluegrass festival circuit, and in 1998 he paired up with an unlikely studio partner, producer Scott Rouse. Though Rouse is a fan of traditional bluegrass, he's best known for his side project the GrooveGrass Boyz, in which classic bluegrass melodies were merged with funk and hip-hop rhythm tracks. McCoury was one of several musicians of note who were recruited for Rouse's GrooveGrass sessions, and the producer also cut some more conventional material with McCoury, including a fine trio album with Doc Watson and Mac Wiseman and a number of tracks with Del and his band that went unreleased. The Best of Del McCoury: The GrooveGrass Years is a short (not quite 27 minutes) and slightly confusing collection that offers a bit of everything from McCoury's sessions with Rouse. There are three tunes from the Del Doc & Mac album (including a great take on "More Pretty Girls Than One"), six unreleased recordings from the Del McCoury Band (including two strong McCoury originals, "Beauty of My Dreams" and "I Feel the Blues Movin' In"), and one GrooveGrass Boyz track, a cover of Bill Monroe's "Can't You Hear Me Calling" featuring Bootsy Collins on bass. The performances with Watson and Wiseman are fine but they're better heard within the context of the Del Doc & Mac album, the Del McCoury Band numbers leave no doubt that this is one of the finest ensembles in bluegrass today, but most of these songs have been recorded by McCoury before without sounding radically different, and the GrooveGrass Boyz song just feels out of place. This hodgepodge of an album doesn't do much to flatter McCoury, though these odds and ends don't tarnish his reputation as one of the great men of bluegrass, either. There are just plenty of albums which present his talent in a more sympathetic light.

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