Bluegrass fans were able to experience some of the best traditional and not-so-traditional music September 6th & 7th as Mumford and Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road tour stopped in Guthrie, OK. While most casual music fans were excited to see Mumford as well as Alabama Shakes and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, others were just as excited to hear Del McCoury, Jeff Austin and Keller Williams.
Del McCoury and the Travelin’ McCourys played two different sets on a smaller downtown stage beginning with a Saturday night set for a couple hundred fans. Their set included his most familiar songs as requested by the crowed and featured the soloing of each musicisan. Especially memorable was bassist Alan Bartram’s vocals on Kentucky Waltz. They were joined during the encore by Mumford front man Marcus Mumford singing Angel Band with McCoury. Earlier they were joined by Jeff Austin on mandolin, Larry Keel on guitar and Danny Barnes on banjo.
Austin and his band Here and Now featuring Keel, Barnes and bassist Jenny Keel, had earlier provided a set of improvisinational bluegrass with traditional song mixed in. Austin, who also plays in Yonder Mountain String Band, said that this was the final stop on this band’s tour. They also played a Saturday afternoon set.
A late-night bluegrass jam at the DoubleStop Music Hall, owned by Guthrie resident and fiddler Byron Berline, featured Berline’s band who mixed traditional bluegrass songs with western swing as well as a couple of songs from Berline’s Flying Burrito Brothers days. They were joined by Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, who appeared to be everywhere in Guthrie, Mumford side man Ross Holmes on fiddle, as well as Bartram on bass. Bartram reprised his Kentucky Waltz performance causing Berline to joke that he “sang pretty good for a bass player.”
A highlight for the 200 people in Berline’s hall was Marcus Mumford taking the stage for the encore. Mumford borrowd a Martin guitar from Greg Burgess, of Berline’s band for an instrumental Whiskey Before Breakfast. Around 2:00 a.m., he then took the microphone for a casual yet emotional performance of Townes Van Zandt’s If I Needed You. He seemed genuinely appreciative of the opportunity to share the stage with talented musicians who have a firm grounding in traditional bluegrass.
Saturday, guitarist Keller Williams with Del McCoury’s band played the downtown stage as Del watched from the side, playing a set of songs that featured solos by Williams, Ronnie McCoury, Jason Carter on fiddle and Rob McCoury on banjo. It appeared that the McCoury’s enjoy playing with Williams as it provides them more opportunities to improvise than the traditional songs with Del McCoury.
While most of the tour’s attention focused on the main stage headliners, fans also had an opportunity to experience a blend of traditional and progressive bluegrass that doesn’t present itself too often.