Album Review: Del McCoury Band & Preservation Hall Jazz Band – American Legacies

Juli Thanki | April 21st, 2011

Del McCoury Band & Preservation Hall Jazz Band - American LegaciesBluegrass and Dixieland jazz may, upon first glance, seem rather different from one another, but they do have several common traits, such as a shared love of improvisation. In addition, as their names suggest, both genres grew out of specific regions and remain linked to those regions and their people. These shared characteristics are part of why the Del McCoury Band and Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s collaboration is such a wonderful listening experience as the two groups explore their musical traditions and find common ground. It’s also because the entire album sounds as though the musicians are having so much fun that the listener can’t help but be pulled along.

The Del McCoury Band and Preservation Hall Jazz Band collaborated before, on a track for a benefit record. Here, they once more blend their sounds, bringing Bourbon Street to the Blue Grass State on a dozen tracks both old and new. The Hank Williams classic “Jambalaya” is served up so wonderfully that you can almost taste the crawfish pie and filĂ© gumbo as Del’s singing soars over the impeccable PHJB horns (courtesy of Mark Braud, Charlie Gabriel, Clint Maedgen, Frank Demond, and Ben Jaffe) and son Ronnie’s mandolin. Classic jazz gets some love too, with a raucous version of the standard “Milenberg Joys,” which has been recorded (under slightly different song titles) by artists like the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Jelly Roll Morton, and, well, Bill Monroe. Spiritual songs, another shared element of both forms of music, is explored on the joyfully noisy “I’ll Fly Away,” on which McCoury’s high lonesome voice alternates with saxophonist Clint Maedgen’s soulful vocals that sound straight from a church pew.

The banjo—whether it’s a tenor banjo or the five-string—is no stranger to jazz, and the banjo work on American Legacies is one of its high points. Rob McCoury is joined on a handful of tracks by Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Carl LeBlanc, a skilled musician who has played with artists like Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint. On the rollicking instrumental “Banjo Frisco” (composed by Del), Rob and Carl intricately weave their way through horns and piano; it’s a good-natured toetapper, and banjo geeks should thrill at the chance to hear those two men on a recording together.

Every song on American Legacies is simply delightful. The strength of the music as well as the uniqueness of this collaboration between two bands that are at the top of their respective fields, makes the record a must-listen as well as a frontrunner for Musical Event of the Year. Might your more hardcore traditionalists of either genre raise a few objections to American Legacies? Perhaps. But as Pres. Hall’s Clint Maedgen sings in the album opener, the bands “came to play/Sweep up the ashes/Get out the way.”

5 Stars

  1. Rickster
    April 21, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    After a quick listen to the samples on Amazon I purchased three of the tracks and will likely be going back for more! What wonderful music to be sure.

    I love when current artists dig up old chestnuts from country music’s distant past (ie the 1940’s and earlier) and Del hits a home run with the Jimmy Wakely hit “One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)”. The last few years its seemed like Willie Nelson has been carrying the burden of reviving these great old tunes for a younger audience. I hope Del McCoury clibms aboard that revival train and keeps ridin’ it! (lol)

  2. Jonathan
    April 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    After Juli’s rave review I went and listened to samples of the songs, and all I have to say is wow. It’s sites like The 9513 that have turned me, and others, on to great music like this, music I may otherwise not have even known existed.

    What stuck me the most was the sound – the infusion of Jazz and Bluegrass is something I hadn’t heard done before and, with this collaboration at least, it really works. Plus, this album sounds like something we would’ve heard decades ago, not fresh music in 2011.

    It’s really nice to know that there is music out there where artists aren’t afraid to take chances, not for the sake of a slicker sound, but for the sake of artistic credibility. This is how you make a lasting imprint on American music and build a legacy that’ll last long after you’ve left this world.

    I’ve never really given Del McCory a chance because I haven’t been able to warm up to his vocal ability. Coming from the watered down world of mainstream country music, the thickness of his twang has taken a little getting used to for me. But I’m finally coming around to seeing his brilliance. And this album is the first step in that for me.

    Thanks, Juli, for sharing this wonderful and truly unique album. It’s one of the best musical collaborations of the year, for sure!

  3. Barry Mazor
    April 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Very cool, Jonathan. Del could be a golden door for yoiu; the joys oif finding someone who sounds absolutley like hismelf instead of like nobody in particular and everyone in genera. And don’t underestimate his ability with phraising and handling a lyric–a different thing form vocal tone. He’s great at that–and that’s one reason he can jump between genres successfully when he doesl He sings the song.

  4. Jon
    April 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    All right!

  5. Juli
    April 25, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Sweet! Glad you’re digging the new record, Jonathan. Once you’re bitten by the Del bug, there’s no going back ;-)

  6. Paul W Dennis
    April 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    This CD is one of my two or three favorite CDs to be issued thus far in 2011. I’ve seen both McCoury and Preservation Hall in concert and the combination just amplifies the pleasure

  7. Marty
    May 1, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    Great album here! Just saw Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin perform with and at Preservation Hall Friday night in NOLA! It was sort of a fly by their seat performance and Preservation Hall were great! Robert Plant even stopped by for a few numbers— Great!!

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