Sam Bush returns with mix of bluegrass, newgrass on new CD

Sam Bush

Sam Bush - click photo to see more images

“Newgrass” musician Sam Bush’s latest CD, his first since 2006, is a wonderful mix of traditional and classic bluegrass and several new songs.

The 14-song CD, called “Circles Around Me” (Sugar Hill Records), is being released Oct. 20, 2009. Bush’s seventh CD, it features a fine supporting cast, including his most recent band of Byron House (bass), Chris Brown (drums), Scott Vestal (banjo) and Stephen Mougin (guitar). Bush adds fiddle and mandolin and sings, of course. Also contributing are Jerry Douglas on dobro and Del McCoury on guitar and tenor vocals on “Roll On Buddy, Roll On” and the traditional “Midnight On The Story Deep,” both sung by Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe.

The first clip below includes Bush and McCoury in
“Roll On Buddy, Roll On,” at BB King’s after the recent IBMA awards…

The pensive title track, written with Jeff Black, has an infectious newgrass-like chorus:

Hey, hey, hey, how in the world did we get this far
Hey, hey, hey, holding tight to the tail of a shooting star
Hey, hey, hey, you’re running circles around me, circles around me now

On his web site, Bush says the song “is about being thankful that you’re still here, that you’re still alive walking around. Why are we the ones still here when we’ve had fallen comrades and loved ones?”

Click below to hear clips of some of the tunes on the CD:
Circles Around Me
The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle
Midnight on the Story Deep
Blue Mountain

Bush wrote “The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle” with Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson about the 1973 murder of David “Stringbean” Akeman, a star of the Grand Ol’ Opry, and his wife. Its meloncholy melody and haunting banjo make for a classic bluegrass murder ballad and sounds like it was written a hundred years ago.

There also are what we’ve come to expect from three-time Grammy winner Bush, blazing fast instrumentals, like in “Blue Mountain.” He also adds traditional songs like “Diamond Joe,” “Midnight On The Story Deep” and the fiddle tune “Apple Blossom,” with banjo New Grass co-founder Courtney Johnson (posthumously), added from newly found recordings.

The Bluegrass Blog conducted a video interview with Bush. To watch that, click here.

Bush is known as the King of Newgrass, which stems from being the co-founder in 1972 of a ground-breaking group called New Grass Revival, which fused bluegrass with rock, jazz, blues and many other styles. The genre called “newgrass” has come to be synonymous with any progressive bluegrass sound, though few bands have ever come close to matching the power and drive of NGR. Bush is known for his performances at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and for late-night shows at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. It’s my belief that Bush’s late-night, progressive jams opened the door to younger crowds and newer jam bands like Railroad Earth, The Waybacks and the Yonder Mountain String Band.

You can see some of that energy here,
in a 2007 performance at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival:


Closing out the CD are tunes that might be familiar to early New Grass Revival fans, updates of “Souvenir Bottles” and “Whisper My Name.” But make sure you don’t pop out the CD when “Whisper” is over. That’s all I’m saying.

A couple of new videos have been placed on YouTube, including one from the photo shoot for the new CD:

And another after Sam won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association:

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~ by folkmaster on October 16, 2009.

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