Del McCoury Band – Almost Proud
I started life down at the bottom
And there were those who kept me there
I did things that I’m not proud of
To see if anybody cared
That’s the wrong kind of attention
I was young and dumb and loud
Now I’m quite and I’m older
Would you believe I’m almost proud
So sings bluegrass elder statesman Del McCoury to kick off the Del McCoury Band’s latest album, Almost Proud. Del and company have much to be proud about and not just almost. With sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo), as well as Alan Bartram (bass) and Jason Carter (fiddle), this former Blue Grass Boy continues to connect to the past while bringing Monroe’s high lonesome sound to new audiences.
Family harmonies and instrumental interplay have always been at the heart of Del McCoury Band. The dynamic between father and sons combined with the easy and natural harmonies of siblings make perfected and nuanced vocal performances sound effortless and unforced – probably because they are for this group. Bartram and Carter might as well be family at this point; they fit so neatly into the McCoury soundscape.
The album’s title track recounts the growth of a young wild man into a less restless and more contemplative older man who finds he is proud of his attempt at a garden and “a cardinal at my feeder.” “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” descries a scenario where, “perfect strangers sitting down face to face, like we’ve never met before” over mournful fiddle lines and supportive harmonies.
“Running Wild” kicks off with breakneck banjo while lyrics turn to a darker concern:
You’re flying high
You’re flying high
Your evil doom
Is drawing nigh
And I don’t care
How much you run
As the saying goes
What’s done is done
Fiddle and mandolin fight with angsty punches that highlight the punctuate the point. As if in response, “Brown Paper Bag” follows with a waltz dedicated to the “brown paper letter ripped up on the floor,” and the “brown paper bag wrapped around this bottle.” “Honky Tonk Nights” follows with the drinking themes but with a shift toward the rowdy energy of the late-night bar accented by Vince Gill’s upper harmony. Another highlight is “Sid Hatfields” a tale of pre-unions union man who stood up his fellow miners and got killed for his trouble.
They said he was a hero
Of all the mining men
He stood up for the working men
That needed help back then
Banjo and bass keep the work going while a mournful fiddle cries out for the working man’s plight in contrast to the mandolin’s punchy push back to work. “Other Shore” closes this collection with a nod toward human mortality and the missing and questioning that happens after a loved one is gone. Over a buoyant arrangement that encourages a positive outcome in the end, Del sings:
Whoa, don’t you know we’ve been wonderin’
Is there something that we could have done
To keep you here with us under the sun?
But you made up your mind
To leave this broken up world behind
All we can do is hope you made it there
And let you know that you’re in our prayers
Almost Proud is out now. And, so is Del McCoury Band – out on the road that is. Catch them one place or another soon and let their high lonesome sound carry you away to simpler times and a peaceful state of mind.