Inspired by Muddy and Monroe with Del McCoury Band and Catherine Russell

By 
Nick Balkin
August 21, 2014

Berklee College of Music's 2014-15 Signature Series kicks off on September 12 with Inspired by Muddy and Monroe, with Grammy-winning bluegrass group the Del McCoury Band and acclaimed jazz and blues vocalist Catherine Russell. The unique performance features McCoury and Russell as well as students and faculty from the Berklee American Roots Music Program re-envisioning the music of Muddy Waters and Bill Monroe, two cultural icons who each helped create and define a blues-based genre: Chicago blues, in the case of Waters, and bluegrass, from Monroe. 

McCoury will be presented with a Berklee American Roots Master Award at the concert. Additional performers include Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, and the Wayfaring Strangers featuring Tracy Bonham, Margaret Glaspy, and Laura Orshaw. Matt Glaser, artistic director of the American Roots Music Program, and Rob Rose, vice president for special programs, are the show's producers. 

"The inspiration for this concert came from a wonderful book by Jim Rooney entitled Bossman: Bill Monroe and Muddy Waters," said Glaser. "We wanted to envision Monroe and Waters playing together in the same band, exploring and sharing each other's repertoires: bluegrass musicians playing repertoire from the blues tradition, and blues musicians playing music from the bluegrass canon." 

Inspired by Muddy and Monroe takes place Friday, September 12, 8:00 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. Tickets are $18 and $8 in advance, and $24 and $12 day of show, and available at berkleebpc.com, by calling 617-747-2261, or at the BPC Box Office. The venue is wheelchair accessible. 

Of all who can be considered bluegrass music’s elder statesmen, none has taken the music to as many new places or introduced it to as many new fans in the past quarter century as Del McCoury. Though he followed his mid-60s stint in Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys with more than two decades of part-time music-making, McCoury became known as one of the most relaxed and open-minded participants—and one of the most intense singers—in the world of bluegrass, and when he and his family moved to Nashville a little more than 30 years ago, fame was quick to follow. Fronting his Del McCoury Band, which includes sons Ron and Rob, he has become a welcome sight everywhere from David Letterman’s show and the New Orleans Jazz Festival to bluegrass festivals tucked away out beyond where cell phone signals reach. He’s a multiple Grammy winner, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and a man who’s at home in virtually every musical circumstance—and through it all, he’s retained a signature sound that’s still every bit as exciting as it is familiar.

Catherine Russell is a contemporary jazz and blues vocalist who has performed and recorded with David Bowie, Steely Dan, Cyndi Lauper, Jackson Browne, Michael Feinstein, Levon Helm, Paul Simon, Rosanne Cash, Carrie Smith, and many others. Russell has released several acclaimed and chart-topping albums including Cat (2006), Sentimental Streak (2008), Inside This Heart of Mine (2010), Strictly Romancin' (2012), and Bring It Back (2014). She has performed at the Montreal, Monterey, and Newport jazz festivals, and appeared on NPR's Fresh Air and Weekend Edition as well as the Tavis Smiley Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Russell's cover of "Crazy Blues" was included on a Boardwalk Empire soundtrack recording that won a Grammy Award in 2012.