By Dan Rozman Photos by Carolin Harvey – Wolf Trap
The intimate Barns at Wolf Trap provided the perfect backdrop for Del McCoury’s historic 5-night residency. As the first artist to ever play a run of this length at the renowned venue, Del once again demonstrated why he reigns as a bluegrass legend. Backed by his talented family band consisting of sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo), and grandson Heaven (guitar) along with Alan Bartram (bass) and Jason Carter (fiddle), Del captivated full houses each night with his soulful distinctive tenor voice.
Every show offered something special and unique for the bluegrass devotees in attendance. This was also the first time the band played entire albums at a live show. The Wednesday night show was a tribute to the man often referred to as “The Father of Bluegrass”, the band played Old Memories: The Songs of Bill Monroe. Thursday they delved into more classics from The Cold Hard Facts and then on Friday they did the Grateful Ball and more, no two shows had the same feel. The final two nights included a Saturday all-request set and on Sunday they finished the residency with the album Del & The Boys. The mix of decades, songs, and styles allowed the band to really stretch out and flex their musical muscles.
The show originally planed for Tuesday, The Cold Hard Facts, was rescheduled to Thursday due to inclement weather preventing the band from traveling from Nashville, but the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the band or the fans. Throughout the 5 nights, Del told stories about the origins of many songs, both ones he wrote as well as songs written by others that he has made his own over the years. He also commented on several tunes that he had recorded that went on to become major country hits for other artists. Del generously showcased the talents of every band member, featuring their self-penned songs along with improvised solos and amusing anecdotes throughout each lively set.
The general admission format on Friday and Saturday allowed fans to dance up close to the stage and feel even more connected to the band and the music. As Del, who just turned 85, sang poignant heartfelt ballads, music lovers turned The Barns into a unique community dance party. When the band fired up one of their hard-driving banjo-powered or fiddle-based instrumentals, whoops and hollers abounded. Smiles lit up the faces of the multi-generational audience, evoking the bygone feel of those early bluegrass days when Bill Monroe was on the stage.
All 5 nights were streamed live (and are still available to watch) on nugs.net for fans unable to attend in person. You could tell the band was at home at Wolf Trap. Del commented several times about how much he and the band love playing The Barns and look forward to returning. He encouraged the Virginia show crowds to join him over Memorial Day weekend across the border in Cumberland, Maryland for DelFest, the award-winning annual festival hosted by the McCoury family.
After 60-plus years of perfecting his craft, Del McCoury still performs with the same youthful exuberance and flair that first endeared him to fans. His golden voice has weathered beautifully, and he remains one of the music’s greatest interpreters of lyrics. Surrounded by world-class pickers with bluegrass embedded in their DNA, Del & The Boys created musical memories over 5 special nights in Northern Virginia. Here’s looking forward to many more shows with Del!
FIVE NIGHTS, FIVE EXPERIENCES
January 17: Old Memories: The Songs of Bill Monroe
January 18: The Cold Hard Facts (rescheduled from January 16)
January 19: Del, Grateful Ball, & Next Generation
January 20: All Requests
January 21: Del & The Boys
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