Still, live albums often have new material, too. Despite 14 songs on "Back to the Mac," though, Deaton says the band chose not to cover original ground.
"We try to save them for studio albums," Deaton says. "We just decided to put things on there that we play for our own enjoyment. Man, we all just kinda sat down and decided to go over the songs we've been doin' in the past that we all know. There was no gettin' together to work on arrangements. It's stuff that you just walked on stage, and you just sorta done it, you know.
"That's one of the differences from what we do on a live album and what we do on a studio album. On a studio album, we get together and do arrangements and rehearse it and pick out vocal parts, all that kinda stuff. On this live album, we just walked on stage and done it."
"We had a set list of the songs we were gonna do, but we didn't know which songs we were gonna put on the album," Deaton says. "After the shows, we listened to the songs to pick for the recording. Normally, we don't do these songs live unless somebody asks for one."
And why should they? Check the band's history. Ten years on the road, 10 albums in the can. Thousands of shows under their belts, 200-nights per year of traveling around the world and many awards.
But they still get along like brothers, Deaton says.
Continuity matters. Whether warbling rock, crooning country or barreling along to a bluegrass tune, bands get better as time rolls by.
"It really does. The combination of people we have, singers and players, they all just jell together," Deaton says. "We're fortunate."
Still, with such success as IIIrd Tyme Out has enjoyed, challenges can grow elusive. After all, they can't win but so many awards. Besides, when you've been on top of the bluegrass world, where else is there to go?
Deaton says that the secret to success is to not rest easy. "Nothing is ever good enough," he says. "No matter how good something is, it's gotta be better. I feel like if we did ‘Back to the Mac' again today, we could do it better. All that stuff on that album is not good enough. It needs to be better than that. That's how everybody in the band feels. That's what makes it work so good."
Armed with an album that may just be the best they've ever made, Deaton still thinks it could be better.
Nevertheless, IIIrd Tyme Out takes great pride in some of the things they've done. Deaton says that playing the Grand Ole Opry ranks high among the band's favorite memories.
"That was a big deal. All my life, man, I'd wanted to do that," he says. "My mom always talked about going to see the Opry, but never did get to before she passed away. It was really high the first time we walked on stage and did the Opry. It was really nice."
That was 1991, the year the band formed. Believe it or not, the trio of IIIrd Tyme Out-ers who were once members of Doyle Lawson's Quicksilver, never played there with him.
Now, as any band knows, there's more to touring than the show.
"We was out in Missouri a few years back when that winter storm hit and bogged things down all around Nashville," Deaton says. "Cars were abandoned all along the interstates. People would just get out and leave ‘em settin' there because they had run out of gas. We took like two days just to get home. We could go, but everybody else was in the road."
Oh, the stories get worse. See, buses break down. You would too if you were driven over 100,000 miles per year across back-roads, interstates and rut-heavy city streets.
"The engine blowed up in Cookeville, Tenn.," Deaton says. "Me and Russell pulled the engine out of the bus and overhauled it. Made the biggest mess you've ever seen. It took us a week."
Being in a bluegrass band is more than what the eyes behold.
"Things are different now," Deaton says. "But aw, man, that was a learnin' experience. I wouldn't take nothin' for it."