What a golden age we’re in for banjo recordings! After years of anticipation, it’s Rob McCoury of the Del McCoury Band, joining recent wonderful banjo recordings by the Foggy Mountain Special Earl Scruggs Tribute team, Charlie Cushman, Noam Pikelny and others.
I’ve known Rob since he was 12 or 13 years old, riding with his dad’s band on festival bus trips in the summer. At Thomas Point Beach festival in the 1980s we invited him into our campsite, and when he said he played the banjo we put one in his hands and ran him through all the songs on Foggy Mountain Banjo by Lester & Earl. He had it then, and he’s got more now!
No question Rob has released this year’s CD for traditional bluegrass banjo fans! There is definitely some flamethrowing here – Blackjack screams off the runway and threatens to leave good ol’ Del hanging onto the guitar rhythm for dear life — “Afterburner” might be a better term. But there’s lots of GREAT medium-paced, soulful music here too.
The songs will be known to traditional banjo fans: Earl, Don Reno, JD, Sonny, Walter Hensley, one of Del’s compositions, and a fine Larry Perkins interpretation of a song very popular in Canada. Very, very satisfying! Don’t be puzzled by the titles Caracas, Jericho and Siempre. You’ll like ‘em. None of these performances are overdone warhorses, not even the one you might suspect is worn out…
There are surprises here too. Bobby Osborne guests on a few tunes, both singing and playing mandolin. Sonny sings and plays a bit of twin banjo. But, believe it or not, ROBBIE SINGS TOO. And not just any old jam tune. He sings a warm, convincing and complex low harmony part with Bobby and Sonny on We Could (You and I). That’s worth the price of admission, right there.
And I’m leaving another big surprise for buyers, it’s too good to spoil.
Del, Jason, Ronnie and Alan of the Del McCoury Band do everything you’d expect in support, and more. It’s great to hear Jason and Ronnie tear into their breaks, whether they are saluting the classic stuff, or breaking new trails. Kudos to Rob for selecting such a great group of tunes that really let Jason and Ronnie turn loose, as well as himself.
A few numbers add pedal steel (excellent) and sensitive percussion (very fitting, no beef from me).
The attractive CD packaging includes heartfelt “thank yous” from Rob, and photos of a bunch of tasty artifacts Rob has collected in his banjo picking career. Plenty of eye candy. Interesting graphics are much appreciated.
5 String Flamethrower has a generous 15 tunes, and not a one disappoints.
The bluegrass banjo world has been waiting a long time for Rob’s solo CD, and this lives up to expectation. Solid, soulful and stout banjo work by one of the best of the best. Lordy, he really puts the thumb to it!! Now begins the clamor for Rob to produce an instructional DVD and book for these tunes.
There is no higher recommendation possible to give – buy this CD and enjoy! Buy it direct from Rob at the mercantile table at a personal appearance if you can, and tell Rob what you think.
Category: Music Reviews
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