Keeping his family close by employing his sons as musicians isn’t the only thing tying Del McCoury back to auld tyme traditions. The fact that the guitarist and banjo player first found wide acclaim, like so many other second-generation bluegrass players, in Bill Monroe’s group goes a long way. As a sort of bridge to New Grass, McCoury routinely made use of jazz-styled improvisational sections in his songs which frequently drew from forgotten, Appalachian songwriters. Springing from the western portions of North Carolina, not all that far from the liberal bastion that is Asheville, McCoury made use of more than just one song penned by Ola Belle Reed, who didn’t reside too far afield from those mountains either. Both performers’ onetime residences explain why discussion of pitched land is such a pervasive theme. Going so far as to title his 1970s album “High on a Mountain” after a Reed composition, McCoury pretty frequently covers “I’ve Endured,” a song so well-wrought by Reed, it’s become something of a minor key standard. Beginning with a simple narrative, featuring winters without shoes and hearing thunder echo around the mountains, there’s an insular certainty about it all, as if the only people who might get to hear these words have come from a similar background. In the song’s third stanza, the singer gets into some socio-political fare, stating “I’ve worked for the rich, I’ve lived with the poor.” On its own, the composition, issued in McCoury’s nasally, octave jumping voice or on archival recordings from Reed, sounds instantly familiar. There’s an innate assuredness. What’s as remarkable as the work itself is that McCoury took something from his home and spun it out on tours in Europe as well as back home at his yearly DelFest, a celebration of music and culture tied to bluegrass. Hopefully, the tune bounces around those plush seats not too far from Lake Michigan. (Dave Cantor)
September 10 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 North Lincoln, (773)728-6000, 7pm and 10pm. $35.