Del McCoury does Bill Monroe

Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe is the title of the next album from Del McCoury. It is set for a digital release during IBMA week (9/27), with a vinyl LP coming on October 25. A CD is probable, but no dates have been discussed.

Bill Monroe tribute projects have become something of a bandwagon phenomenon during this, the year we mark the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1911. Bandwagon or no, it seems perfectly appropriate to remind not only the bluegrass world, but the larger sphere of music media – plus fans of roots and acoustic music – of the monumental contributions Monroe made to American culture.

McCoury has his own very personal connection to the Father, having spent just over a year in Monroe’s employ in the early 1960s. His deep familiarity with the music, and Bill’s vocal style, has seen him tapped as the singing voice of Monroe in an upcoming biopic film at times linked to actor/director Peter Sarsgaard, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, and music producer T Bone Burnett.

Bottom line… Del has all the bona fides he needs to chronicle Bill Monroe’s music, and with his talented Del McCoury band in cahoots, this one seems certain to become a definitive recording.

He shared a few words about how the project came to be…

“I had done songs of his on different albums I made through the years, but I’d never really thought about doing a whole album until the day we were flying home from the Grammy awards—and by the time we got to Nashville, I’d made a pretty good list of what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to do a lot of things that everybody had already done; I wanted to do somethings that weren’t real popular but were really good. Some were songs I’d never heard him sing, some were songs that he’d sing on a show—and some were songs that he sang on the record, but he made me learn the lead. And I wanted to do them in the same keys he did, because if you change that, you just don’t have the same sound he had on them.

“I put more runs in my guitar playing for this one, because, you know, Bill really liked Edd Mayfield’s playing, and Edd played runs all the time. So without even thinking about it, I think I played guitar on this record more like the way I played when I was with Bill—I even took a break on Used To Be, because Bill had Charlie Cline take a solo on that one.

And I got some songs that you don’t hear too often, like Lonesome Truck Driver Blues. That one kind of hit home to me, because I used to drive a truck myself, and there are a lot of things in that song about what a truck driver goes through.””

Other songs featured include In Despair, Live And Let Live, Heavy Traffic Ahead, I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome, Y’all Come, Close By, Rose Of Old Kentucky, Alabama Waltz and The Girl In The Blue Velvet Band among the 16 tracks.

Should be a good’n!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.