Sam Bush: Storyman
Sugar Hill Records 6/24/16
Sam Bush is likely one of the busiest musicians in existence. He maintains a rigorous touring schedule, is in constant demand as a studio musician/collaborator and still manages to catch the US Open tennis tournament each year and St Louis Cardinals games whenever possible. It’s small wonder that it has been 7 years since his last solo CD project. Especially in this case, a ‘solo’ project is a misnomer, really. He is out front, certainly, but the Sam Bush Band members are more than merely present and there are a few special guests, including Pig Robbins, Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris.
This project is diverse but it isn’t fragmented or disjointed. That makes sense because that’s how Sam has made music for 40 years. Bluegrass, reggae, Southern Rock and blues played on mandolin, fiddle and guitar are all in Sam’s wheelhouse in fairly equal proportions. This CD reads like the Sam Bush Band in concert. There’s something for everyone and Sam’s exuberance pervades the listener’s earbuds.
In addition to Sam’s musical acumen, one of the reasons Sam is so busy, in my opinion, is that people really just love the guy. He is brilliant, goofy, self-effacing, engaging and genuine. If you have opportunity to see the 2014 documentary film Revival: the Sam Bush Story, I urge you to take the time. Even if acoustic music isn’t your thing, the human story is heart warming and valuable during our current climate of fear & hate. My friends Kris Wheeler & Wayne Franklin outdid themselves in creating the film. It helped that they had great material.
This is the first project on which he had a part in writing every song. Each of the tunes is co-written with friends, including the recently deceased writing legend Guy Clark. As good as Bush’s last project (Circles Around Me) remains, Storyman may eclipse it with some time and consideration.
Each of the tracks lives in its own space and deserves a longer look and I plan to do a track by track post later. For now, however, the standouts to me are Lefty’s Song, Carcinoma Blues, Play By Your own Rules and Greenbrier (instrumental).
Looking at that list, there’s a story song, a statement blues a la Jimmie Rodgers, a Celtic/Newgrass tune and a stomping Bluegrass instrumental. If you throw in the reggae style of Everything Is Possible, you’ve got a good sampling of the facets of Sam’s music. It plays well over time and in various settings.
This seems to be the most intimate project Sam has released to date. We are all the richer for it.
Photos from the project by Shelley Swanger
Sam Bush- Mandolin, fiddle, guitar, lead vocals
Stephen Mougin- Guitar, vocals
Scott Vestal- Banjo
Chris Brown- Drums
Todd Parks- Bass, vocals