The Travelin’ McCourys: The Travelin’ McCourys
You can’t accuse The Travelin’ McCourys of rushing into things. The bluegrass quintet (Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Rob McCoury on banjo, Jason Carter on fiddle, Alan Bartram on bass and latest recruit Cody Kilby on guitar) has been around for eight years—longer than the lifespan of many bands—and has only now released their proper debut album. Of course, they’ve been anything but idle all this time, serving as the road and studio band for patriarch Del McCoury, working the festival circuit and more. With all that prep time, perhaps the Travelers might’ve opted for something more ambitious and elaborate, but that’s not what they’re about: This music is as straightforward as the album title, as if to say, “This is who we are and we have no reason to pretend we’re anything else.” The songwriting is split between band members and outside composers, the most notable of the latter coming from the Grateful Dead family. The harmonies and breaks of “Cumberland Blues” are a perfect fit, and “Loser,” with its lonesome, mournful vocal, transposes to the format easily. Another cover, John Hartford’s “Natural to Be Gone,” houses some of the most virtuosic picking and harmonizing of the set, but there’s some of that going on pretty much everywhere, from the mandolin-fiddle jockeying of “Borderline” to the high-speed soloing that perks up the opening track, “Let Her Go.” Bluegrass is alive and well with the Travelin’ McCourys, for sure.