THINK ABOUT IT
The new album from the Morells arrives just four years after the band's second album. That's breakneck speed for a group that took 19 years to release a follow-up to its 1982 debut, "Shake and Push."
A roots-rock outfit that was part of a thriving Springfield, Mo., scene in the early 1980s (okay, not so much a thriving scene as a few bands that played originals as well as covers), the Morells were cult favorites, albeit to a very small cult. But the band had fans in high places and has performed over the years as a backup group for a number of artists, including Steve Forbert, Dave Alvin, Jonathan Richman and Robbie Fulks.
On this 11-song collection, the Morells go their own way again, mixing in cool-rocking originals with covers of Chuck Berry's "Nadine" and an especially amusing version of the suspicion-riddled "How Come My Dog Don't Bark (When You Come Around)?"
The quartet -- guitarist D. Clinton Thompson, bassist Lou Whitney, drummer Ron Gremp and new keyboardist Dudley Brown -- plays old-school rock, simple and unpretentious.
It sounds like what it is -- a great bar band that occasionally surpasses expectations. "Ain't My Day," a Ben Vaughn-like ditty, and "Get What You Need," a derisive look at consumer-driven culture, are the best of the original songs, but the jumpy country take on the Delmore Brothers' "The Girls Don't Worry My Mind" is the highlight of this lively collection.
-- Joe Heim
(The Morells will perform with three other Springfield roots-rock bands -- the Bel Airs, the Domino Kings and Brian Capps -- Aug. 15 at Iota.)
THE COMPANY WE KEEP
The Del McCoury Band
Buying a Del McCoury Band album is like taking a swig of Grandpa's prize moonshine: It comes with years of experience, you know precisely what you're going to get -- and, damn, is it smooth. McCoury has emerged as modern bluegrass's most instantly recognizable voice. His is the quintessential lonesome tenor, the kind that echoes endlessly across the Ozarks of your mind.
McCoury's virtuoso quintet -- which includes his two titanically talented sons, Ronnie on mandolin and Rob on banjo -- glides effortlessly from mid-pace pickers such as "She Can't Burn Me Now" to the ripping front-porch hoedown "Seventh Heaven," on which members deliver solos like dry lightning strikes.
That song is the only instrumental, which is a slight letdown. But there's plenty of nectar-sweet playing on standouts such as the funny-modest "Nothin' Special" and the runaway train "Blown Away and Gone" -- perfect bookends for this CD.
For the first time, McCoury co-wrote three tracks (most were penned by other Nashville songwriters). His biggest success is the self-descriptive "Never Grow Up, Boy," on which he declares, "I make my living with a guitar / My job is standing on a stage / I played in churches, fairs and dive bars / I ain't never gonna act my age." One can only hope.
McCoury, 66, is a national treasure, and a prolific one at that: This is his band's third studio album of the new millennium. Is it the best one? No, but it's rock-solid, entertaining and inspiring. "When it's all working right, I feel like I have invited you all over to the house and we're just having fun," McCoury writes in the liner notes. It makes you wonder if, like Loretta Lynn, he might want to have Jack White over for dinner sometime.
-- Michael Deeds