Working within the influences of two American musics - New Orleans jazz and bluegrass - "American Legacies" provides 47-minutes of enjoyable, challenging music. While the album is far from the boundary-stretching bluegrass that has become the hallmark of the McCoury sound, the resulting alchemy is mind-blowing. Call it Bourbangrass, call it Del Orleans: it works.
While not fully understanding the complexities of these venerable music styles - with both jazz and bluegrass having established expectations seemingly incompatible with the other - it is shocking to hear how seamlessly Del and his band slide into the mix with a New Orleans institution.
By the time the lively spiritual I'll Fly Away is presented, one has gladly abandoned preconceived notions. 50/50 Chance was previously heard on Del McCoury's 1999 album "The Family," and while it remains identifiable, the addition of tuba and Dixieland banjo- not to mention a more relaxed tempo- markedly change the McCoury composition.
Bill Monroe recorded Milenburg Joy in 1976; not even he could have imagined that the mandolinist who has perhaps best carried his legacy since his death (Ronnie McCoury) would revisit the Jelly Roll Morton/Louis Armstrong tune with New Orleans stalwarts as Mullensburg Joys. Again, the performance is devastating in its perfection with horns, piano, banjo and mandolin coming together to interpret a standard.
The breezy A Good Gal is but one of several monumental vocal performances and features a substantial horn interlude.
Del McCoury has been more open to outside musical influences than many within bluegrass to whom the moniker 'traditional' has been applied. "American Legacies" again proves that when artists cross expected boundaries, wonderful things can result.