Review: The Del McCoury Band Carries on a Timeless Tradition with ‘Almost Proud’

by Clayton Edwards
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.(Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage via Getty Images)

Del McCoury is arguably the greatest living bluegrass musician. His long list of genre awards, decades honing his craft, and legions of fans will back up that assertion. His band, which consists of Del on guitar and vocals, his sons Robbie and Ronnie on banjo and mandolin, respectively, Tad Marks on the fiddle, and Mike Brantley on the bass have been playing together for decades. Those years together led to a level of musical cohesion that most bands can only dream about. Their sixteenth studio album Almost Proud dropped today and is a testament to the talent and chemistry of the band.

In Almost Proud, the Del McCoury band tackles a handful of covers. However, most of the tracks on the album are new original tunes. For the most part, the record is exactly what you’d expect: traditional bluegrass from a seasoned band. However, Del and the boys are inventive enough to keep the tried and true traditional sound fresh.

Standout Tracks from Almost Proud

Cutting a good bluegrass album is like shooting fish in a barrel for Del McCoury. So, it goes without saying that Almost Proud is top-notch. However, there are some tracks on this record that stand out from the rest. Let’s dive in.

“Almost Proud”

The Del McCoury band opened the album with its title track. The banjo-led tune sees Del singing autobiographical lyrics about growing up, settling down, and being almost proud of the man he is today. This is one of those songs I’m sure many Outsiders will be able to relate to. The melodic banjo, mandolin, and fiddle breaks the band takes throughout the tune are just the icing on the cake.

“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”

Kris Kristofferson wrote “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” in the 70s. Tommy Overstreet was the first to cut the song in 1972. Six years later, Kristofferson turned the song into a duet with Rita Coolidge on Natural Act. Those were slow, sad country songs. The Del McCoury Band turned the tune into a bouncy bluegrass number with plenty of mandolin and Del’s high lonesome vocals.

“Sid”

This might be my favorite song on the album. It’s definitely my favorite cover. “Sid” tells the true story of “Smilin’” Sid Hatfield who was gunned down by coal company guards on the courthouse steps in Welch, West Virginia. He died, unarmed, for his participation in the Battle of Matewan, one of many dust-ups between coal miners and the brutal corporations who oversaw the work.

There’s so much to love here. The lyrics, originally penned by Alan “Cathead” Johnston and David Grubb are great. However, Del McCoury’s delivery elevates them. This a bit of a sneer as he recounts the heroic deeds and tragic death of Smilin’ Sid. Additionally, the band lays a blazing backdrop for the tale.

Final Verdict on the Del McCoury Band’s New Record

Almost Proud is a phenomenal album from beginning to end. Del McCoury’s vocal delivery and his band’s arrangements make for a record full of brand new songs that feel timeless. If you love classic bluegrass and you’re craving something new, do not hesitate to give this one a spin.

Outsider.com