"The Promised Land" by The Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band

The Promised Land

McCoury Music

4.5 stars (out of 5)
Fans have been asking for a gospel album from bluegrass music’s best band, and Del and the Boys have finally delivered. The result has justified the wait.

Many bands simply recycle bluegrass gospel standards from Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers for a project like this. But here the DMB makes the inspired choice to dip into the work of Alfred E. Brumley, who wrote “I’ll Fly Away” and “Turn Your Radio On,” for half of the disc’s 14 cuts. Brumley’s songs, along with “Don’t Put Off Unitl Tomorrow” (Pete Pyle) and “Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Come Up Today” (Del McCoury/Jerry Salley), result in a backbone of old-school bluegrass gospel that isn’t too familiar.

Jason Carter (fiddle) and Ronnie McCoury (mandolin) create an endless supply of inventive, economical breaks and fills while Rob McCoury drives each arrangement, with either his agile banjo or with finger-picked guitar on “The Lord is Writing Down Names,” “Gold Under My Feet” and the bluesy shuffle “Five Flat Rocks,” the latter featuring all five of the DMB in a splendid vocal quintet.

Though he doesn’t yet match the thump and drive of the departed Mike Bub – who could? – new bassist Alan Bartram does a creditable job.

But of course Del’s voice is the main attraction. He effortlessly shifts from expressive mid- and high-range lead vocals up to sharp tenor on choruses, where he and son Ronnie (vocals and mandolin) do the best duet singing that’s being done these days. The joy he takes in singing these songs is so strong you can hear him smiling through the speakers.

by Aaron Keith Harris