I can still recall, sitting in my hotel room, singing Del McCoury‘s version of “Nashville Cats” last year when I visited Nashville for the first time. It is somewhat serendipitous that the next band I would see in Nashville was The Travelin’ McCourys. My last time in Music City I hung around Broadway and the tourist areas, which were filled with out-of-towners and pop-centric country music. This time I decide to take a more local approach and catch some live bluegrass at 3rd & Lindsley.
This evening’s performance would be The Travelin’ McCourys first show of 2018 and they seemed to dust their strings off quickly, opening with “Cumberland Blues,” which was authentic high-powered bluegrass, traditional but intense and always on the edge of a jam. This band is filled with fine musicians from Ronnie McCoury and brother, 2015 banjo player of the year, Rob McCoury to fiddler, Jason Carter and bassist, Alan Bartram.
The only noticeable difference in their stage presence is the lack of Del, and use of more than one mic. Ronnie takes over and does a fine job leading the band, while at the same time keeping the McCoury stage persona alive. There were moments on stage when I was reminded of his father.
The Travelin’ McCourys are a razor sharp bluegrass band; progressive yet, not extreme in the use of effects on their instruments; still hard-hitting bluegrass that leaves air to breathe. Mixing traditions like classical, jazz, blues, folk and rock aspects with bluegrass, following in the innovate tradition of their namesake.
The Travelin’ Mccourys would go on to cover David Grisman and a slew of Grateful Dead songs including: “Loser,” “Loose Lucy,” and “If I Had The World To Give,” with Ronnie’s son joining the band on guitar, truly making this a family affair. Vocally and musically, The McCourys make these songs their own; improvisational, tight, and impressive. Closing with “Freedom Blues” and back-to-back solos from all the members on stage.
The sound was immaculate inside 3rd & Lindsley, and it was easily one of the coolest venues I have been to in Nashville. This being only my second time in Nashville, I am so glad I had the opportunity to cover this show. I was happy to be reminded of how great bluegrass can be, especially in Music City, where one must cultivate their own musical experience.
Catch The Travelin’ McCourys on tour now.
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.