On This Day #60 – Steve Earle and Del McCoury

On this day …  

On May 21, 1999, Steve Earle accompanied by The Del McCoury Band performed at the Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, England, in a UK tour to promote their recently released collaboration, The Mountain (E-Squared / Artemis 1064-2). 

The personnel involved were Steve Earle (guitar), Del McCoury (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Robbie McCoury (banjo), Jason Carter (fiddle) and Mike Bub (bass).

The set list for the concert was as follows …  

Texas Eagle / Yours Forever Blue / My Old Friend the Blues / The Graveyard Shift / Outlaw’s Honeymoon / Dixieland / Connemara Breakdown / Harlan Man / The Mountain / I Still Carry You Around / More Than I Can Do * / Now She’s Gone * / Goodbye * / Taneytown * / Halo ‘Round the Moon * / Another Town * / South Nashville Blues * / I Ain’t Ever Satisfied * / Mystery Train Part II / Leroy’s Dustbowl Blues / Hometown Blues / Long, Lonesome Highway Blues / I’m Looking Through You / Ben McCulloch / Tom Ames’ Prayer / Carrie Brown / Copperhead Road 

Encore … 

Johnny Come Lately / Hillbilly Highway / Down the Road 

The asterisks represents the songs performed solo by Steve Earle. 

Award-winning bass player with the Del McCoury Band at the time, Mike Bub, reflects …. 

“I don’t remember a thing about that specific show, unfortunately. I probably have a recording of it in my tapes somewhere. We basically did the same show every night. We were based at the Sheraton Hotel in Kensington, and would go up to a different town by bus and play a show every day and return to the hotel each night. At the same time, the Mavericks were playing a week long run of sold out shows at the Royal Albert Hall, and all of their band and crew were staying at the same hotel. We would gather in the pub every night and have a few drinks. We did the Jools Holland Show with them. 

That tour was really fantastic for a young musician, like myself, who had pretty much never toured at that level before. We had a double decker tour bus and a full-time traveling caterer making dinner for us every night. Unfortunately, it was during this time that Del decided to end his touring partnership with Steve… probably more like the managers deciding. It pretty much came to an end when we returned to the states. 

It was back to the bluegrass circuit for us but eventually, the impact of touring with Steve finally caught up with us and it helped take Del and band to a whole new audience and level of venues and events. In spite of upper level managerial conflicts, I loved touring with Steve. He worked very hard to get his bluegrass chops up to speed, and he wrote some fantastic songs for the album.

Conversely, we had never been around or involved with an activist before. Someone who used the stage to espouse a political ideology and that was something we had to adjust to. But, it was just that bit of tension and message that made the whole thing more eventful. It really was a collision of two very different worlds, but the outcome was beneficial to both camps.”

Steve Earle and The Del McCoury Band perform Carrie Brown live at the Farm Aid concert in Tinley Park, Illinois on October 3, 1998 

While The Del McCoury Band did collaborate with him for a track, I Still Carry You Around, on an earlier Steve Earle CD, El Corazón, a full album and tour was a somewhat incongruous combination, and many reviewers spoke of the differences, as did Tim Perry writing for Country Music International magazine.  

At the same time, it has been said that the link-up was beneficial to both parties. The Mountain was generally well received being registered as a top-20 hit on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. 

As far as the show in England’s West Midlands is concerned, a Steve Earle fan left as a big Del McCoury Band enthusiast also. 

In penning all the songs on The Mountain CD, Steve Earle acknowledged another recurring topic in the annals of bluegrass music …

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.