NPR logo Crossing Over the Threshold of Bluegrass

Crossing Over the Threshold of Bluegrass

I grew up in Kentucky pretty much not being able to stand bluegrass music. Then I spent five straight nights at a bar on North Limestone Street in Lexington listening to some really good musicians and once you cross over that threshold, there's no going back. The harmonies start to intrigue (you'll find a part to sing yourself) and you treasure the entries and exits of the banjo, fiddle and lead guitars.

The Del McCoury Band's 'The Promised Land'

Listen to 'It's an Unfriendly World'

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Soon I was volunteering at a public radio station, hosting a program called Kentucky Blue and traveling to as many bluegrass festivals as I could afford. One reason I wanted to work at NPR was that Washington, D.C., had, by then, become a super town for bluegrass.

I stay in touch with the music and still like the older groups — Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. And Del McCoury is working on the same side of that street. Tomorrow on Day To Day, you'll hear a review of the Del McCoury Band's first gospel recording, The Promised Land (a CD, although if ever you wanted to hear something on vinyl, this is it). Among the songs are seven not-so-often-heard selections from Albert E. Brumley, who wrote "I'll Fly Away." Check out the band's take on Brumley's "It's an Unfriendly World" (audio).

The McCoury Band guys wear suits and ties and a carry a respect for the music into the studio along with the standup bass. I'll point you toward Trey Kay's review tomorrow of The Promised Land by invoking the name of another Brumley standard, "Turn Your Radio On."

Update: The piece on the Del McCoury Band along with some more music from their new CD is now up on the site. Check it out.

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