Reviews > Shows
DelFest Rocks the Bluegrass World
Allegany County Fairgrounds
If the Fifth Annual DelFest proved anything, it’s that Del McCoury is the rock god of bluegrass.
When the former lead singer for Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys led his band onto the main stage of DelFest this past Memorial Day weekend, a Rolling-Stones-have-taken-the-stage-size cheer rose from the crowd of about 10,000.
Although the four-day, Maryland-based DelFest featured some of the biggest names in bluegrass and American roots music – including the Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth, Steve Martin & Steep Canyon Rangers Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon and Bela Fleck — it was Del McCoury and his band that stole the show.
“Bluegrass is really bigger now than it ever was,” said McCoury just prior to DelFest. “But all music is related. Earl Scruggs was playing those things in the beginning but people didn’t realize he got a lot of that from jazz and Dixieland. The same with Bill Monroe. He learned from Jazz.”
That’s one reason that McCoury, himself a traditional player, has continually opened the festival to all aspects of bluegrass and American roots music. While the Del McCoury Band – whose members include sons Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Robbie McCoury (banjo, whose wife was expecting the Tuesday after Memorial Day!), Jason Carter (fiddle), and Alan Bartram (upright bass)– mixed and matched covers including Hank Williams’ tune “You Win Again,” requests and tributes, it was the band’s tried-and-true material that won the biggest cheers. Songs including “Queen Anne’s Lace,” “ Heart of my Heart,” and the much-loved “Nashville Cats” kept the crowd dancing even as temperatures soared.
“Hey, now you folks in the back are singing but you folks in the front aren’t,” said McCoury, gently prodding the crowd during the “Nashville Cats” sing-along. “We would like to hear all of you.”
Of course, the crowd complied and were rewarded with one of McCoury’s 1,000-volt smiles and thanks: “You did good that time!”
Keller Williams didn’t arrive at the Alleghany County Fairgrounds in time for McCoury’s set, he had a show to play elsewhere, but wasn’t surprised by the crowd’s warm reaction to the veteran performer and his band. Williams knows first hand how the McCoury musicianship and legacy inspired a crowd. He and the Travelin’ McCoury’s, which includes everyone from Del McCoury’s Band except Del, are playing shows in support of their soon to be released album Pick, a mixture of covers and original songs. Before taking the DelFest stage with the group to perform many of the songs from the album, plus covers including a rendition of “Hot Stuff” in tribute to recently deceased disco diva Donna Summer, Williams said the all-ages DelFest crowd was representative of those they’ve seen on the road.
“We are definitely hitting it hard this summer,” he said underscoring McCoury’s contention that bluegrass is red hot. “[Younger fans] are getting it. And even if they’re not, they’re getting into it. Bluegrass has always been a big part of my show just like electronica and jazz, so working with [the Travelin’ McCourys] just seemed like a natural fit.”
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