Lunchtime with DelI had the pleasure to spend the noon hour yesterday listening to my favorite Bluegrass band at the WDVX Blue Plate Special-indeed I believe that The Del McCoury Band is the greatest active band in Bluegrass music today. In the past, I have expounded on this weblog about my belief that Del McCoury is the world's greatest living musical genius. I believe that in the annals of music, Del and his mentor, Bill Monroe, are right up there with Bach, Mozart, Handel, and Beethoven. Del may be the greatest Bluegrass musician that ever lived, I certainly think he is one of the greatest musicians that ever lived, period.
In days past, Aaron Harris and I used to follow the Band around. If Del was playing anywhere within driving distance of the Dayton area, where we both lived at the time, Aaron and I did our best to make the show. Indianapolis, Ann Arbor, Columbus, Cincinnati, Bowling Green-if there was a show and we could make it, we were to be found there.
I was fully prepared to declare that the Band was not quite its former self after the untimely departure of bassist Mike Bub for reasons that are still unknown and mystifying (this is the first time I have been able to see the Band since Bub's departure). Although I do not believe that the Band's new bass player Alan Bartram can even begin to compare with Bub, I also realized after yesterday's show that to fail to give Bartram his due is entirely unfair to him. Sure, Bartram is no Bub, but the fact is that there are few in the bluegrass world that are anywhere near as good as Mike Bub-thus it would be like comparing apples to oranges. There is also the fact that the rest of the Band remains entirely intact, and has within it one of the greatest high tenors of all time (Del), one of the best mandolinists in the business (Ronnie McCoury), one of the world's best banjo pickers (Rob McCoury), and one of the best fiddlers I have ever heard (Jason Carter). If Bartram is among that kind of company for as long as Bub was, he is likely to get really good by default-and besides, he was pretty good in the first place.
I found the Band's new Gospel songs to be soulful and true, and I wanted to shout "Amen!" in the middle of the performance. I'll be getting Del's new release, and from what I heard yesterday, Del sounds as high and lonesome as ever. If you've not experienced Del live, you haven't experienced Bluegrass in its fullness just yet.