Ten bluegrass albums that will change your world

Bluegrass might be the punk version of country.
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DEL MCCOURY – A Deeper Shade of Blue – 1993

Bill Monroe passed away in 1996 at the age of 84. A few years prior, a kid named William Lee Apostol – who would eventually become the face of modern bluegrass – was born. Del McCoury was the link between the two. He began playing banjo and singing in a few bluegrass outfits in the late ‘50s before joining up with Monroe as guitarist and singer in 1963. From there, he would team up with a great many musicians and explore every style of popular music, while always bringing along a good helping of bluegrass.

McCoury would eventually form his band with family. First, it was his brother Jerry in the Dixie Pals, and later, his two sons would join him in the Del McCoury Band. A Deeper Shade of Blue came at his zenith in the early ‘90s, when he was winning IBMA's major awards seemingly every year. Though he has continued to put out excellent work to this day, this album is the best place to start to understand how traditional bluegrass has been gradually broadening its appeal over the past fifty years.

The lead track, “Cheek to Cheek With the Blues,” shows the band in its full bluegrass glory. Del’s twangy tenor harmonizing with his son Ronnie soars over Ronnie’s mandolin and his other son Rob’s banjo. “How Long Blues” is a classic blues number given bluegrass treatment with Ronnie’s mandolin. A fiddle shows up on “What Made Milwaukee Famous,” And dobro master Jerry Douglas, who co-produced with Ronnie, makes an appearance on “Cold Cheater’s Heart.”

McCoury has performed with a who’s who of modern music over his long career, and this album stands at the crossroads of traditional and progressive – one the very best blends you will ever hear.