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Review: An Evening of Bluegrass at Deluxe

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Noam Pikelny - SUBMITTED PHOTO
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  • Noam Pikelny

Getting the chance to see a performance like this makes reviewing music a worthwhile pursuit for me. Two masterful, soul-restoring hours of bluegrass in an intimate setting -- a show this good, regardless of the genre, is a rare experience.

The combined talent of this newly formed quintet was immediately apparent when, after opening with "Walk Out In The Rain," banjoist Noam Pikelny made a remark about this being only the second time they had played together in front of an audience. And despite this fact, without a hint of exaggeration, they had the Deluxe erupting with applause in 20 second intervals.

Every member of the band is a virtuoso at his respective instrument, each with plenty of experience playing in the company of highly-regarded musicians: Pikelny a member of the Punch Brothers; Ronnie McCoury playing mandolin in the legendary Del McCoury Band; bassist Barry Bales with Alison Krauss and Union Station; fiddle player Luke Bella with Lyle Lovett's band; and Bryan Sutton, an industry-favorite session guitarist.

They played a single extended set, seamlessly blending traditional bluegrass standards with more progressive, original material. The oldest member of the group, Ronnie McCoury is most accustomed to the former (songs like "Shady Grove" and "Streamlined Cannonball") having spent decades playing them with his father, Del, one of the few remaining patriarchs of classic bluegrass.

After the show, I told Ronnie how much I enjoyed the performance. He thanked me and said, "These guys are really working me. I've spent the past two days learning the original tunes, and you know, I'm an old school guy." He laughed. "This is fun for me!"

When the band came out to mingle in the lobby, they seemed pleasantly surprised by the response. With so little preparation, they said they were still figuring out certain cues and working out the kinks onstage as they played. From their perspective, they still had rehearsing to do.

But to the audience: this show was as good as it gets.

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