Highlights: Bluegrass Legend Del McCoury Plays the Chandler

  • The Del McCoury Band performs at Randolph's Chandler Music Hall on Friday evening. (Courtesy photograph)

  • ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret opens its production of "The Fantasticks" with a special preview performance next Thursday, Sept. 13, in the Grange Theater in South Pomfret. Among the cast are from left, Michael McAssey, Nick Kuhn, Sarah Lasko and James Rio. See "Looking Ahead" for more information. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, September 06, 2018

Judging by the Del McCoury Band’s recent tours, mandolin player Ronnie McCoury expects his father to open Friday’s concert at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall with a few songs from the band’s most recent album, Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass.

And after that?

“The shows tend to be primarily playing a lot of requests for the older material,” Ronnie McCoury said on Tuesday in a telephone conversation from his home in Nashville. “That’s what he does. He enjoys that more than anything.”

That routine is fine with 51-year-old Ronnie McCoury, his 47-year-old brother and banjo player Rob, and fiddler Jason Carter, all of whom have toured and recorded with Del McCoury for at least 25 years. Since 1994, the International Bluegrass Music Association has named the band Entertainer of the Year nine times and Instrumental Group of the Year twice. Ronnie McCoury has earned the association’s Instrumentalist of the Year award for mandolin eight times, Rob McCoury for banjo in 2015 and Carter for fiddle five times, most recently in 2014.

Then there’s the instrument.

“Dad’s voice, it’s a God-given thing,” Ronnie McCoury said. “He’s a pretty quiet guy. He was never the type to be in a barroom, talkin’ loud. He’s always taken care of it. He’s just got a voice that, knock on wood … he’s still got it.”

When Del rests his voice, the younger McCourys and Carter perform as The Travelin’ McCourys.

“I just got back here from a long weekend, where both bands were at the Strawberry Music Festival on the edge of Yosemite National Park,” Ronnie McCoury said while washing dishes in his kitchen. “Before that the Travelers were in Illinois for a festival, then we went to Denver to meet Dad and play (country star) Dierks Bentley’s Seven Peaks music festival in Colorado.”

Ronnie McCoury went into the touring life with his eyes wide open. When the family still lived near York, Pa., Del ran a small logging business and toured with his original band on weekends, usually in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic states and the Midwest.

“They all had day jobs and had to get back to work on Monday,” Ronnie said. “They did it, and they all loved to do it.”

During one of the original band’s trips to New York City, to play at Lincoln Center with bluegrass godfather and mandolin master Bill Monroe, “the lightning bolt really went off for me,” said Ronnie, who was still in his teens. “I always thought, ‘This is what I’m gonna do.’ I never thought about doing anything else.”

Before going on the road with his father at age 18, Ronnie did go through a phase, as a baseball- and basketball-playing teenager during the early 1980s, of interrupting the bluegrass and country radio stations that his parents usually played in the house with blasts from the records of Southern-fried rock bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers,  as well as a certain guitar-driven Canadian ensemble.

“The first-ever rock concert I went to was to see Rush,” he recalled. “I was just blown away by all the music coming out of three guys. Those guitars were what I really enjoyed. But our dad never told us to turn it off. We’d be crankin’ it up, but I guess it was stuff he could tolerate.”

Even after his sons began leaning back toward bluegrass, Del played it cool.

“My Dad never told us to practice,” Ronnie said. “I think he just taught us by example, made us want to do it. We saw the joy it brought him.”

While hewing to most of the traditions of bluegrass and inheriting Monroe’s mantle, Del McCoury also takes pleasure in performing and recording with musicians ranging from roots legend Steve Earle to Vermont jam band Phish.

“When Rounder Records released our first album together with Dad, The Blue Side of Town, in 1992, the Reverend Jeff Mosier gave the CD to Phish, which at that point was touring in a van,” Ronnie McCoury recalled. “Trey (Anastasio) told me that that was the most-played CD in his house that year. Since then, we’ve played at their festival, Trey has played at DelFest, and (Phish drummer) Jon Fishman has played with us.”

Ronnie McCoury particular enjoys his and the band’s relationship with the New Orleans-based Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which began shortly after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005.

“Dad was the first person they asked to sing there,” Ronnie said. “He went down and sang a couple of songs with ‘em, and on their CD. Later on, the whole band started working with them. We all really enjoyed it. … It’s so much fun to find the common ground. It makes you a better musician.”

The Del McCoury Band performs at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph on Friday night at 7:30. To reserve tickets ($41 to $55) and learn more, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

Best Bets

The Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse resumes on Friday night at 7, with a visit to the Methodist Church in Sunapee Harbor from Ameranouche. The ensemble brings years of experience wowing audiences at the Newport Jazz Festival and beyond with its mix of flamenco, bebop and swing. Admission is by donation. To learn more about the coming season, which runs through Dec. 21, visit sunapeecoffeehouse.org.

■The ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival shifts gears and sets at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret, with the closing Saturday of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and the opening next Thursday of The Fantasticks.

Broadway veteran Ken Prymus stars in The Fantasticks as The Old Actor, and Bridgewater comedian Collen Doyle plays Mortimer. The show trots out such legendary songs as Try to Remember while following the struggle of a young couple to stay together despite family pressures and the ravages of time. For tickets ($18 to $25 for preview performances, $28 to $35 for all others) and more information about these and subsequent festival productions, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

■Randolph-based performance artist J. Turk unveils the multi-media show Conversations with Aidron, at the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum in Meriden on Saturday night at 8. The presentation draws from “Transparent Bodies,” the current exhibition of Duckworth’s art. Admission is free.

■Violinist Francesca Anderegg performs works of Hannah Lash, Gabriela Lena Frank, Lili Boulanger and Rebecca Clark on Sunday afternoon, at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish. The performance, which starts at 2, was re-scheduled from early July, when temperatures of 100 degrees forced a postponement. Admission is included in the $10 entry fee to the historic site.

Looking Ahead

The We the People Theatre Project holds auditions for its next production, Working: The Musical, tonight and tomorrow night at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. Both tryout sessions, open to actors and singers of all ages and abilities, start at 5 p.m. Richard Waterhouse will direct the musical adaptation of journalist Studs Terkel’s 1974 book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, at the Briggs Opera House during Town Meeting season in March. To learn more, visit wethepeopletheatre.com.

■The Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich is inviting aspiring storytellers to submit true tales on the theme of “Experiments Gone Awry,” for an Oct. 19 session at the museum. Sept. 17 is the deadline to submit stories of seven-minutes duration or shorter. To propose a story or to learn more, visit montshire.org.


Althea SullyCole performs her blend of African roots and jazz rhythms this afternoon from 4 to 6 at Colburn Park in Lebanon, during the weekly farmers market.

■The folk ensemble Oliver the Crow plays the Feast and Field Market in Barnard tonight at 5:30.

■The Samara Piano Quartet performs works of Mozart, Brahms and Joaquin Turina at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon on Friday night at 7:30. Admission is $5 to $20. To learn more, visit samarapianoquartet.org.

■Sensible Shoes performs from 1 to 3 on Saturday afternoon during the Woodstock Arts Festival on the village green, and at noon on Sunday during the Vermont Mac & Cheese Challenge at Artisan Park in Windsor.

■Siblings Liz and Dan Faella range among traditional Irish, Celtic and New England folk music at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon on Sunday afternoon at 2:30. Admission is by donation.

■On the theme of “Old World/New World,” flutist Leslie Stroud and pianist Matthew Odell sandwich sonatas by Mendelssohn and Faure around contemporary compositions of Martin Amlin, Gary Schocker and Benjamin C.S. Boyle on Sunday afternoon at 4, at Woodstock’s North Universalist Chapel. Admission is by donation.

■Organist Gail Archer plays works of Bach, Buxtehue, Schumann and more on Sunday afternoon, at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College in Hanover. Admission is free to the concert, which starts at 4 p.m.

Bar and Club Circuit

Guitarist Ted Mortimer, saxophonist Katie Runde and bassist Ben Green play a set of jazz at Peyton Place in Orford tonight at 6.

■Sensible Shoes pulls into Windsor Station tonight at 7. Jester Jigs plays there at 9:30 on Friday night, and Chris Kleeman teams up with guitarist Ted Mortimer on a set of jazz on Tuesday night at 6.

■Guitarists Billy Rosen and Steve Ellis play jazz on Friday night from 7 to 9, at the Inn at Weathersfield in Perkinsville.

■Bassist Peter Concilio, pianist Tom Robinson and drummer Tim Gilmore play jazz at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 8.

■The one-man band Shrimp Tunes enlivens Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Friday night at 9, and Hammond organist Tom Caselli leads his B3 Brotherhood on Saturday night at 9 to play their blend of soul and funk from the 1960s and early 1970s.

■FLEW-Z frontman Alec Currier performs a set of acoustic rock at Lebanon’s Salt hill Pub on Friday night at 9, and The Avenue Band plays a danceable mix of country hits and classic and modern rock on Saturday night at 9.

■John Lackard sings and plays the blues at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night at 9, and guitarist Ted Mortimer performs there on Saturday night at 9.

■Singer-songwriter Rory Loughran plays Newport’s Salt hill Pub on Friday night at 9, and rocker Chris Powers appears on Saturday night at 9.

■Pianist Sonny Saul performs jazz at On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9.

■ Soulfix plays the Taverne on the Square in Claremont on Saturday night at 8.

■ Keyboardist Doc Winslow, bassist Tom Lord, guitarist Kit Creeger and drummer Bryant Harris play their weekly brunch gig at Poor Thom’s Tavern in Meriden on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

■Saxophonist Mike Parker and singer-guitarist Alison “AliT” Turner play during brunch at SILO Distillery in Windsor on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 3, and at Crossroads Bar and Grille in South Royalton on Tuesday night at 6. Parker performs a set of jazz with guitarist Norm Wolfe on Wednesday night at 6 at the Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm.

Open Mics

Woodstock musician Jim Yeager hosts open mics tonight at 6 at The Common Man in Claremont, on Wednesday nighy at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners and next Thursday night at 7 at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret.

■During the First-Friday festivities in White River Junction, Kelly Armbrust hosts a jam session at 6 for musicians and dancers, at the Open Door wellness center. Admission is by donation to Hartford High School’s food bank for needy students.

■String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

■Joe Stallsmith leads his weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass on Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

■Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

■Tom Masterson hosts an open mic at Colatina Exit in Bradford, Vt., on Tuesday nights at 8.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Entertainment news can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.