Del McCoury said early on that he didn’t want to repeat any of the songs from the previous night’s first of two shows at City Winery. According to Del McCoury Band bassist Alan Bartram, he didn’t.
Alan, incidentally, also mentioned during the show how thrilled he was to see it spotlighted in New York magazine. Turns out he’s a longtime subscriber.
Speaking of magazines, the band had been to Relix earlier in the day, and had already done “a lot of picking,” said Ronnie McCoury. Del noted, too, that he’d spent a lot of time at the Winery “downstairs with the barrels.” He seemed happier about that visit than the one at Relix.
The first half of the show was all McCoury Band. They did their version of Dylan’s “Walk Out In the Rain,” actually from the 1995 album Ronnie & Rob McCoury. It’s as good a Dylan cover as there is, and Ronnie sounds a lot like Del singing it.
Del prefaced the performance of his 2008 album titletrack Moneyland by noting that John Herald’s manager had sent it to him shortly after Herald died (an apparent suicide in 2005).
Herald was one of the major players in New York City’s bluegrass scene, having formed the Greenbriar Boys in 1959. I was lucky to meet him when he was a key part of Greg Garing’s Alphabet City Opry in the late ‘90s in the East Village.
Another highlight came with another McCoury album titletrack—last year’s “The Streets of Baltimore” cover of Bobby Bare’s classic 1966 country hit. As Del explained, he had lived in Maryland for a time, when he was playing with late bluegrass upright bass great Jack Cooke.
Determining after that no one in the audience was from Baltimore, Del opened it up to requests: “You paid to get in here, I didn’t,” he said. “We should do something you want to hear.” It was “High on a Mountain,” his 1972 album titletrack, and then he brought out David Grisman.
Grisman related how he met Del at Del’s first show with Bill Monroe (he played five-string banjo) in the spring of 1963 at NYU, where Grisman was a student. He and Del then sang the Monroe Brothers’ “Nine Pound Hammer,” Grisman on mandolin and Del on guitar. From their Del & Dawg album of ‘90s jams, they performed “Country Boy Rock & Roll.” Marty Stuart also does a great job of the Reno and Smiley country classic:
Also from Del & Dawg came “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Walkin’ the Dawg” and the Carter Family’s “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.”
Grisman scored by pointing out how late-night TV never mentions the Carter Family, and that “any financial advisor will tell you to put some of your money in CDs.” He was also the most visual guy on stage, a big, gentle bear of a man in gray shirt and slacks to match his long hair and beard, positioned in between Ronnie in a black suit and Del in a light one.
He would turn to his left to share vocals with Del, then turn to his right to trade mandolin licks with Ronnie, rocking physically while Ronnie stood and smiled—a striking balance in appearance and performing style.
Del and Dawg will now tour together, while Rob completes his first solo CD.