The main stage of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has felt the tapping toes of many a legend over the last 40 years. From late greats such as Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and Doc Watson, to the talents of today who bring their experiences to the crowd with each note sung and played. Two such modern-day living legends have played sets in Telluride: Emmylou Harris and Del McCoury.
Of course, both of these musicians were joined on stage by fabled pickers in their own right, Rodney Crowell with Emmylou on Thursday night and the, “Masters of Bluegrass,” Bobby Osborne, J.D. Crowe, Jerry McCoury, and Bobby Hicks with Del on Friday. I’m specifically mentioning Emmylou Harris and Del McCoury within this list of legends, as I’ve seen them both several times and I feel that the music played at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival these last few days was the best I’ve ever heard them.
With a phenomenal pedal steel player and the classic country vocals of Rodney Crowell, Emmylou was truly rocking. Swaying and stomping to the music, she brought Return of the Grievous Angel, Wheels, and Poncho and Lefty to the audience with the first opening numbers. Friend and collaborator, Sam Bush, joined the band for a few numbers and brought his ever-present vivacity to the show. There was new energy pushing classic songs.
A few songs into the Masters of Bluegrass set, Del stepped up to the mic with a solo vocal honky tonk number that had the crowd cheering loudly after individual notes he hit. I was in awe listening to the true high lonesome ways of Del McCoury – and I feel that awe was shared with all around me. Del was letting it all out with his lead vocals, but I was absolutely sold upon the first song as Del McCoury, Bobby Osborne, and J.D. Crowe gathered around the single mic with three-part soaring harmonies on Blue Ridge Cabin Home.
This was the first time in a long time where my ears actually hurt due to the piercing tenor. This is a certain type of pain that I had been missing and it was invigorating.