Although the newest offering from Del McCoury offers a few surprises in the songlist, it offers a treasure trove of flawless musicianship from one the world’s tightest and most talented groups. At this point in history The Del McCoury Band is, and has been for quite some time, the benchmark ensemble in the Bluegrass world and, in my opinion, the world of music in general.
Streets of Baltimore is a musical tribute and revisiting of the city and time where and when Del first got into the Bluegrass scene. It was there that he hooked up with an ex-member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass boys. Through that connection he scored a gig as a banjo player on an unrehearsed show in NewYork City with the Bluegrass legend that eventually led to him to becoming a member of that band.
Although that all occurred many years ago, this album and Mr. McCoury’s singing sound as fresh, powerful and moving as singers half his age of 74 years young. Surrounded by his band ( Sons Ronnie and Rob on Mandolin and Banjo respectively along with Alan Bartram on Bass and Jason Carter on Fiddle) Del’s guitar playing and vocals soar.
In keeping with Del paying homage to the town of Baltimore ( a mere hour drive south from his native York, Pa.), Del chose a number of country pop tunes that Bluegrass bands commonly covered in the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s.
The title track was a 1966 hit for Country singer Bobby Bare. “Too Many Rivers” was a hit for Brenda Lee and covered by other country singers over the years. “Once More with Feeling” was a hit for the “The Killer” Jerry Lee Lewis and features some authentic Honky-Tonk piano courtesy of album guest Bobby Wood.
From the “Great American Songbook” comes the Erroll Garner classic “Misty”, which I had forgotten was also covered by Ray Stevens at some point in Country history. On “Misty” we hear the effortless virtuosity that the boys in the band bring to the table. I hear no difference between the solos on this song and any of the more traditionally Bluegrass songs on this album. Whether it be a three chord Bluegrass waltz, or a Jazz/pop standard, all three of the soloists are inventive, tasty, and setting the standards by which all Mandolin, Banjo, and Fiddle players should be judged.
Add to that mix the time tested yet surprisingly spry vocal stylings of one of this country’s true treasures, plus a baker’s dozen of classic and soon to be classic compositions, and the result is a “must-have-album” for lovers of both traditional and contemporary Bluegrass music!