The Del McCoury Band

The Company We Keep

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"Everyone who pre-orders The Company We Keep will be placed in a drawing to receive the very first (#1/500) limited-edition Del McCoury Bobblehead doll." The fact that this quote, according to almost every press release concerning the latest release from the esteemed Del McCoury Band, precedes any information about the actual record itself is cause for concern among longtime fans. The Company We Keep is infinitely more satisfying than 2003's tepid It's Just the Night, but by adhering to a less progressive program than in the past, much of the playing -- though as precise as an algebra equation -- seems more or less phoned in. Never mind that McCoury is 66; he's still got a lot of oil to burn, something that fans who have had the pleasure of seeing him play live will enthusiastically attest to. He's at his best when he's ornery ("She Can't Burn Me Now"), but for every spark there's a wet wick -- "I Never Knew Life" is a paint-by-numbers gospel groaner. With a lineup -- longtime bass player Mike Bub left shortly before the album's release -- that boasts over 12 years of merrymaking, the Del McCoury Band should be able to find a balance between progress and tradition. Unfortunately, The Company We Keep is awfully keen on keeping things conservative.

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