It goes without saying that Del McCoury doesn’t really need to continue pushing the bluegrass rock up the mountain, especially after five storied decades. But he does, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. These are shit-stompin’ tunes, and it always helps that he has such a crack band behind him. And after more recent sacred fare, it is also good to hear the icon return to his salt-of-the-earth muse; albeit with songs penned by various musicians, including Mark Knopfler, Ronnie Bowman, and Jim Lauderdale.
Oh, sure, the Being(s) upstairs is (are) still quite present, but McCoury doesn’t let his material get too soaked in what’s in store in the so-called afterlife. And thank [insert deity of choice] for that. There is too much passion and pathos to be found in this wonderful squalor we call a planet. Yes, sometimes life sucks, but the bluegrass monolith finds the pearl in just plain livin’, too (“Bad Day for Love”). He also isn’t too afraid to wallow for a spell in more primitive lyrical terrain, sliding close to a girl, and shootin’ the flirt fantastic with a gal that’s been ‘round the block (“Barbaric Splendor”). McCoury also allows his band to breathe on scenic landscape passages (“White Pass Railroad”). Knopfler’s tune is a real beaut (“Prairie Wedding”) combining McCoury’s natural gift for finding the glimmer in a gal’s eye with an understated performance that rings true. He also knows when to just tell it like it is on the other end of the road of a relationship (“Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”—I know. Great title. Co-written by Buddy and Julie Miller, it was also covered by Lee Ann Womack), while he knows what he wants and pleads for another chance (“Break Up”).
Getting those chances, in relationships and elsewhere, are important. One needs to keep an eye on the horizon, keep looking for that next chance even with the head down upon the work, always the work, because the work survives and you don’t, dig? The Del McCoury Band takes those chances, whether profane or sacred, or sometimes a blissful combination of both (a rare gift, indeed), and deliver a fine set of performances that are ripe for cherry-pickin’, and a straight-up old school album experience. Choice is yours. You takes your chances.