It isn’t very often that you get to see two legends like this on the stage together. While Del McCoury takes his 75th birthday lap around America, playing everything from his annual DelFest to Telluride Bluegrass Festival, we were lucky enough to get him to stop at City Winery NYC for a couple nights, and I was lucky enough to attend the second of those shows.
Joining Del would be, of course, his “band,” comprised of his sons Ronnie and Rob, alongside fiddle-master Jason Carter and bassist Alan Bartram. But more importantly, David “Dawg” Grisman, legendary mandolin player, Jerry Garcia collaborator, and overall ace musician joined for the second half of the set. The band started off with the five of them, blazing through high-energy bluegrass that they have become famous for.
Ronnie McCoury is clearly the strongest musician of the bunch, and every time he took a solo we were really treated to some of the best traditional bluegrass mandolin shredding you will ever see with your own two eyes. While cohorts such as Railroad Earth and Infamous Stringdusters explore tempo, sound and genre within bluegrass instrumentation, the Del McCoury Band focuses on playing to the highest level while maintaining the tradition that’s kept Del McCoury playing music for 56 years.
An hour in, the band, except for Del, left the stage to make room for David Grisman. The Dawg and Del Duo did a handful of songs that really focused on harmonic vocals and Grisman’s virtuosic mandolin skills. The duo said “if you close your eyes during this next one, you might be able to imagine a full band playing it.” Cue Ronnie, Rob, Alan and Jason for the second half, joining in flawlessly to heighten the wall of sound.
The show went on for a couple hours, proving that Del isn’t losing any steam at 75. His wife was working the merch booth along with what I believe was Grisman’s wife. It’s clear that music is more than a hobby or even a means of income for these guys; it’s life. The grin on Del McCoury’s face as he plays world-class with his band is a testament to this fact. We’ll see you at DelFest! Tickets are available for the festival right here.