Del McCoury / The Del McCoury Band

Del and the Boys

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On their second effort for Ricky Skaggs' Ceili label, Del McCoury and his band, the reigning kings of bluegrass (even if Ralph Stanley is the Pope) turn in a another solid, haunting, and even completely astonishing set that features everything from tunes about haunted train rides, biker outlaws who remain focused on their quest unto death, a Richard Thompson tune ("1952 Vincent Black Lightning"), and a blues tune supposedly gleaned from listening to Frank Sinatra, as well as more traditional bluegrass stompers about being high and lonesome, grief, lost love, and hanging out at the barnyard. Right, that sentence was a mouthful, but then, this is an album full of surprises and affirmations of how great Del and his boys are -- especially that monster Ronnie McCoury on his mandolin and as a backing tenor singer. When music like this comes down the pipe and a record is structured as well as the band's live set (and just like the live set; other than microphones there are no electric instruments to be heard anywhere), bearing listeners out of their shells in the opening moments, taking them deep into the reality of the stories being offered in glorious four-part harmony with Del soaring above the band with a voice that encompasses all the emotion in the world in its grain, listeners are carried through each pitfall and blessed moment as the music kicks, whispers, slips, and slithers around them until they are moved by this band of minstrels into the heart of all things human and most things American. This is perhaps McCoury's finest outing yet.

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