The Odd Couple Hit the Road

It’s been a few years in the making, but the duet tour of Del McCoury and Sam Bush kicks off tomorrow night (November 18) at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. Making stops in New York City on Monday night and Chicago on December 1, the duo will pick things up again after the new year with a few more select dates, including make-up shows in Connecticut and New Hampshire, which had to be cancelled this week because of the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy.

On the surface, the pairing of Bush and McCoury may not exactly seem like peanut butter and jelly; after all, we have the anointed “King of Newgrass” in Bush and the nine-time IBMA Entertainer of the Year traditionalist, McCoury, hitting the road together for the first time to sing songs and tell stories of their lives in music, and throw in a few surprises, to boot. Can their vastly different styles blend successfully into a pleasing approach to bluegrass music? Bush says yes, absolutely.

“I think some people may be surprised to hear me, as the Newgrass guy, playing in a much more traditional way,” he concedes. “But I grew up loving the music of Bill Monroe, so definitely part of what we’re doing has sort of a Monroe Brothers vibe. Of course, that is also me being able to blend in with Del, that’s the whole idea here.”

Both men realize that having just the pair of them on stage to handle the whole show between them is a big responsibility, and they’re glad they have each other for support. Del says, “Sam’s stretched out a bit over the years, but he knows the standards and the history and can play them on fiddle and mando as good as anybody. It’s going to be a challenge playing and singing some of these great songs with just two instruments and two voices, but I know Sam is up to that challenge.”

Or as Sam puts it, “It’s gonna be different for me, because I love playing in a five-piece band, as does Del. I’m not used to talking all the solos and making fills, because I love to play rhythm! I want to make sure that Del McCoury is featured, but just getting to hear us, stripped down to two people, and getting to hear the mastery of Del’s rhythm guitar work…he is a whole band unto six strings.”

Audiences may expect an easy, laid-back atmosphere, with plenty of laughs, story-telling and of course, great music. And in true Del fashion, McCoury is counting on the crowd to help out, too.

“I like interacting with the fans during the show,” he says. “It’s always fun when they request songs, and we’ll play them. I think what’s going to be most fun on this tour is playing some of these intimate listening rooms, just the two of us, and the shows will be so interactive that the fans almost become part of the show.”

Bush is eager to create and capture a unique experience each night, both on the stage and for the audience. “We want to keep these shows fun and light, where we’re not just trying to play non-stop. We want the keep the show special, and hopefully, the audience will feel that way, too.”

Dates for the Del McCoury/Sam Bush Duets Tour are as follows:

  • November 18: The Birchmere – Alexandria, VA
  • November 19: City Winery – New York City
  • December 1: Old Town School of Folk Music – Chicago, IL
  • January 11: Imperial Theater – Augusta, GA
  • February 10: Big Sky Big Grass – Big Sky, MT


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About the Author

Shannon Turner

Shannon W. Turner has spent over twenty years in the Nashville music community, working in TV, print, digital and radio media. She has written for Bluegrass Unlimited,, AOL’s The Boot, Fiddler, CMA Close Up and others. She is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Bluegrass. Born and raised in West Virginia as part of an extended musical family, her passion for music was instilled by her parents exposing her to everything from Elvis and Ray Charles to Earl Scruggs and Loretta Lynn. She dedicates her work to their memories.