The Vermont Cynic

Bluegrass duo tunes into musical traditions in Burly


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The long white hair on stage at the Flynn proved testament to the seniority of one bluegrass power duo this past Friday.

Mandolin player David Grisman and rhythm guitarist Del McCoury, billed as “Del and Dawg,” delighted the audience with harmonic vocal interplay, ripping mandolin solos and stories of the bluegrass past Feb. 26.  

Grisman is most notable for his collaborations and longtime friendship with the Grateful Dead’s lead guitarist Jerry Garcia.

The two released multiple albums together and were band mates in Old and In The Way and the Jerry Garcia Band.  

Grisman, who has been playing and recording since 1963, was given the nickname “Dawg” by Garcia according to his website.

McCoury, a member of the bluegrass hall of fame, began his long career by joining Bill Monroe, the founder of bluegrass music,  and his band in 1963.

Now he regularly plays with his own band, the Del McCoury Band and has also performed with Phish and The String Cheese Incident.

Between songs, the duo recounted their memories of music, placing the crowd in a time machine.

While Del and Dawg are not the founders of bluegrass, they have played with the original musicians of the genre and have had an influence on the music that is played today.

“We watched bluegrass get to a whole new level of popularity in ‘50s,” McCoury said.

The duo’s place in the evolution of American music added significance to their stories as they painted a contextual picture of what was going on musically and historically.

The bone-chilling harmonies, accompanied by mandolin solos influenced by the jazz of guitarists like Django Reinhardt, went on for an hour and  a half.

After several songs audience, members  leapt out of their seats, clapping and cheering in a standing ovation.

While the duo has grown and changed the bluegrass style, “Del and Dawg” still hold on to tradition.

The group uses  mandolin and guitar, the original two instruments that were used by the original bluegrass musicians in the 1930s.

While the music was the highlight of the night, the political discourse that periodically arose was equally interesting.

About halfway through the concert, Grisman pulled back his suit jacket revealing a black “Bernie for president” T-shirt. Most of the crowd erupted in hoots, hollers and applause.

At this moment, the woman next to me immediately became unsettled at the duo’s support of Bernie Sanders.

She whispered loud complaints to her children throughout five songs, seemingly torn between the music and her political views.

Eventually she got up and left during the second to last song, this time loudly stating her desire to get her money back as I stood up to let her out of the row.

Apart from being occasionally distracted by the talking going on next to me, Del and Dawg delivered a great show, their voices holding up very well with their old age.  

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Bluegrass duo tunes into musical traditions in Burly