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High Lonesome and Blue

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Album Review

High Lonesome and Blue is part of Rounder's 30th-anniversary 30-volume Heritage series of best-ofs compiled by label boss Ken Irwin. As such, it covers the living bluegrass legend Del McCoury's tenure with the label from 1987's The McCoury Brothers debut through to 1996's Cold Hard Facts. There are 16 cuts here, originals by McCoury's sons and bandmates as well as country classics (an amazing read of George Jones' "Don't Stop the Music" closes the album), bluegrass staples (Bill Monroe's "The Bluest Man in Town"), and tunes by contemporary writers such as Steve Earle ("If You Need a Fool") and David Olney ("Queen Anne's Lace"). This is a solid overview of a band that changed the face of bluegrass by using traditional means to approach the entire country music canon, fueled by the truly gifted musicianship of McCoury's sons, Ronnie and Rob, and Del's own singular voice. Musically, this is solid from top to bottom, and Del's own comments on the songs are a great bonus. Jon Weisberger's liner notes offer a decent thumbnail sketch of McCoury's biography, but his fawning comments about Rounder's vision and promotional strategies are irksome; they read like they were written by its marketing department. After all, isn't the label already paying tribute to itself with this series? Still, it's a fine compilation and a great introduction to the early genius of McCoury.


Born: 01 February 1939 in Bakersville, NC

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Among the most distinguished practitioners of traditional bluegrass, Del McCoury was the epitome of the "high lonesome sound" for over three decades. Born Delano Floyd McCoury, he was raised in Bakersville, North Carolina. In 1941, he and his family moved to Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, where he got his start as a five-string banjo picker with Keith Daniels & the Blue Ridge Ramblers. Later he played with Jack Cooke's Virginia Mountain Boys in Baltimore. McCoury got his first big break in 1963 when Bill...
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