Archive for the ‘Del McCoury’ Tag
No excuses for not posting since November. Sigh.
While driving home from work today, I realized we’re twelve days away from Christmas. And that brought to mind a way to get some posts written this month, since it isn’t happening any other way.
I haven’t thought this out- I know where I’m starting and I’m pretty sure where I will end up(and with which song)- but I haven’t created a master list. I’m just going to post 12 songs in 12 days, songs I consider to be masterful and favourite roots music songs. Not the best, necessarily.
Dick Staber, left; songwriter “Call Collect on Christmas”
I begin this evening with “Call Collect on Christmas,” a seasonal bluegrass classic. A Dick Staber song, first recorded (I think- I can’t actually find too much definitive information about the song) by Del McCoury in 1974. If I’m reading the liner notes to 35 Years of the Best of Rebel Bluegrass correctly, the song was unissued until that four-disc set appeared in 1997. Staber had been a member of The Dixie Pals, and I imagine that is how the song came Del’s way. His version is mighty tough to beat, and not many have tried.
Staber recorded the song on a 1984 album (according to iTunes), and that may be one I have to download one day. I didn’t think I could find a more enjoyable version of the song than McCoury’s, but then came James King within the O Christmas Tree compilation that Rounder released a decade ago.
This version- released as The James King Band- was even better, in my opinion. The fiddle carries the song; Adam Haynes should be proud of this one. “Carries” is likely the wrong word, because it is King’s voice that has the lasting impact- as is his wont, King sounds like he is about to burst into tears with each passing rhyme. I do believe he is the most expressive bluegrass singer around, giving George Jones a run for his money on each of their finest days. I don’t know what led to the falling out between King and mandolinist Adam Prater, but one of those men must be regretting it- Prater sounds mighty stout on this one.
A couple years later, The Bluegrass Brothers- another favourite outfit- put out a third version that found its way into my collection, again via a record label compilation. Christmas With Hay Holler had a real ‘down home’ spirit, and “Call Collect on Christmas,” sung by Jack Leonard and featuring some nice banjo picking on the break (courtesy Robert Dowdy) was a highlight.
Any of those three versions of “Call Collect on Christmas” is well worth a listen- and the Staber clip I heard on iTunes sounds interesting, too- the song has everything I look for in a Christmas song- a pitiful excuse of a son, well-placed guilt, a mother’s death…ah, Christmas with the family.
I searched without success for a video of the song online. The closest I came was The Bluegrass Brothers’ version on their MySpace site: http://www.myspace.com/bluegrassbrothers/music/songs/call-collect-on-christmas-78198227. All versions mentioned are available on iTunes and the McCoury and Staber versions are on eMusic.
[I also plan on posting a link to a favoured non-roots Christmas song daily- today, The Kinks’ “Father Christmas”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-oVPVsCqs4 Quite possibly, the second best ‘rock/pop’ Christmas song I’ve ever heard.]
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee, and thanks for your patience with me. Life tends to take precedence over writing these days; just the way it is. Donald
I’ve revised my piece from seven years ago about “The Mountain,” the album recorded by Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band and released in 1999. It is posted over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=927. Hopefully you find it worth the read.
A bit late but understandable being how busy editor Aaron Keith Harris is, today brings the release of the Lonesome Road Review’s top 10 bluegrass albums of the past year. I’m pleased to see that Aaron and my LRR colleague Larry Stephens agreed with me in several places, quite likely more than I expected, and I’ve written positively about each of the albums here or elsewhere with perhaps the exception of the #1 album, another that I really enjoyed and purchased both digitally and on vinyl. My only complaint about the Old Memories album is the rather spartan packaging- no gatefold, no liner notes, and the vinyl itself is not as hefty as other recently produced album offerings; still, a terrific album of music.
Each of my top 5 albums made the list and I hope that these placements help some of you make some purchasing decisions. None of the artists who made the list, with the exception of AKUS, is living the high life; most are folks with extensive experience in the bluegrass world, having spent years on the road and are well deserving of any recognition they receive. Of course, I’m absolutely thrilled to see three particular names on the Lonesome Road Review list: Dale Ann Bradley, John Reischman & the Jaybirds, and James Reams & the Barnstormers. See my Top 10 here http://tinyurl.com/873u42u and visit the LRR to see the complete 2011 Top 10: http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/01/21/the-lonesome-road-reviews-list-of-top-10-bluegrass-cds-of-2011/
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
9:28- Sam Bush did a fine job as host, I do believe. A final shout-out to William Smith Monroe.
9:29- I missed who was performing the instrumental- I heard George Shuffler’s name so I’m just going to sit back and listen a bit.
Real nice. Smooth. Okay, a dropped not there but they picked it up and took it home.
That was fine; not sure of the tune- my bluegrass depth is showing.
9:31- Del McCoury Band and Friends- Roland and Sam- now. I could listen to Del all day. A bit of rough there around the edges. There we go- now he’s in full voice. “The last letter she wrote was on a blue piece of paper…” Haven’t heard that in awhile. Going the medley route it looks like- swinging into “Loneliness and Desperation.”
A good show all around. Some fiddling going on as we hit 9:35. I can identify about 12 instrumental tunes- this isn’t one of them, but I know it. No guesses, just enjoying the sounds. “Roanoke,” perhaps? I’ll be glad to be corrected.
9:38- That’s all, folks.
I hope I have provided a service you appreciate tonight. I enjoyed listening and sharing.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
8:23- Bush reads the awards presented earlier today- see my post earlier if you like https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2011/09/29/ibma-awards-2011-the-early-results/
8:24- Who would be better to induct Del McCoury into the Hall of Fame than his sons Ron and Rob.
Ron just mentioned Del’s patience which I find interesting because it is this quality that I have also noticed in Del the few times I’ve spent time in his company. (No, we’re not pals.) But I did spend an extended period of time backstage with Del at the Calgary Folk Music Festival one year where he talked about bluegrass, the business side of things especially, in an open and honest way. He really made me understand the value of re-recordings, not just artistically- as the performance of songs later in life can add to the original- but also financially for the artists. Getting those song rights, owning your music, is what counts- and not just for the current generation. I recall the way he stated that he was operating McCoury Music not only for himself, but for his family, his grandkids.
I also recall his manner with Jean, a lady who has been kind to me each time we’ve met. I felt like she remembered me from one meeting to the next although I can’t see how she could have.
As I listen to the men talk about their dad, I am pleased that Del is being inducted.
The first bluegrass festival I attended was headlined by the Del McCoury Band (minus Bub who was sick with, I think, the chicken pox); imagine a better introduction to the world of bluegrass fests. Not likely.
Ola Belle Reed was mentioned by the guys, in connection to “High on a Mountain.”
A real nice moment for the McCoury clan, I’m certain.
8:35- Del makes his way to the stage. What I would give for a video simulcast. I love his speaking voice. Del calls Jean to the stage, along with other family members.
8:38- It says a lot about Del that he has spent minutes gathering his family and introducing each person. A thank-you to Bill Monroe as Del recalls his first time working with Mr. Monroe in NYC.
8:40 Getting back on track with his Monroe story. Thanks to Ricky and Sharon Skaggs. Del won’t be making a commercial for York County, PA. The state of bluegrass: “It’s better than it has ever been!” “I listen to Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Martin…you can’t beat that stuff.”
Now, let’s get Hazel Dickens in the Hall of Fame.
8:43- Del isn’t done, having forgotten Jason and Alan. And thanks to the labels- Rounder, Rebel, Arhoolie, Skaggs, Grasstown, Revonah…
8:45- The Gibson Brothers hit the stage.
Previously announced, Del McCoury and George Shuffler have been invited in- I am looking forward to these two legends of the bluegrass biz having their moment. And it is hard to criticise their induction given I’ve advocated for the selection committee to look toward the Living while they’re Living. I’m a bit bitter that Hazel Dickens didn’t get the nod while she was with us, and I’m glad Del and George will get their flowers while they’re breathing- not that they are going anywhere soon.
Well deserved, gents.
In 2010, Preservation was released. A collection of songs to benefit New Orleans’ Preservation Hall made with a wide-range of artists, the compilation was an almost-universally undisputed success.
Amongst the treasures revealed by that set was a single track featuring Del McCoury; “After You’ve Gone” was a swinging performance that allowed McCoury to explore his voice in a manner not previously imagined. The fact that it worked so effectively led to the conceptualization of American Legacies.
My review of this outstanding album has been posted at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4671.
I wouldn’t want all my Del music to sound like this, but I sure enjoyed this album.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald