Sugar Hill Records, Inc.
P O Box 55300
Durham, NC 27717-5300
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Henry Koretzky
Back in the '70s, when the Newgrass Revival was just starting out under the helm of bandleader Sam Bush, they received less than warm receptions from some of bluegrass's "old guard." The story, possibly apocryphal, goes that at a festival appearance which they shared with bluegrass's patriarch, Bill Monroe, the big Mon approached Bush and asked, "What's that music you play?" Bush: "It's newgrass, sir." Monroe: "Well, I don't like it."
Fortunately, the years caused most of the bluegrass vanguard (even Monroe) to eventually open up to the exciting possibilities contained by Bush's high energy mandolin playing, his fervent vocals, and his dual loves for traditional and progressive styles. After twenty years of heading Newgrass Revival, followed by a high profile term as musical director of Emmylou Harris's Nash Ramblers, as well as countless appearances as a sideman on diverse recording sessions, GLAMOUR AND GRITS features the charismatic mandolinist in only his second solo recording.
This CD seems designed to spotlight his versatility and eclecticism. There are a pair of high-energy newgrass instrumentals: "Whayasay," with its intricate dual leads with Bush and banjoist Bela Fleck, and the rhythmically explosive "Stingray," hitherto available only on the Telluride PLANET BLUEGRASS live twin CD. "Watson Allman" is a memorial tribute to the slide guitar legacies of Merle Watson and his idol, Duane Allman, which showcases Bush's unique resonator mandolin stylings interweaving with the dobro of Jerry Douglas. Speaking of the Allman Brothers, "(One Night in Old) Galway" lets Bush and Fleck cut loose on wailing electrified mandolins and banjos, respectively, on this Celtic-tinged rocker. In a quieter setting, "Brilliancy" lets Bush stretch out on an accompanied fiddle tune, while his talents on the electric fiddle are displayed on "Spooky Lane" and the aforementioned "Galway."
Sam Bush has always been a forthright singer, and GLAMOUR AND GRITS lets him shine on a half-dozen fine numbers. Particularly noteworthy are a dead-on reggae cover of Bob Marley's "Is This Love," and the classic pairing of the voices of Bush and NGR's John Cowan on the original gospel tune, "The Lord Came Unto Me." "Same Ol' River" and Willis Alan Ramsey's "The Ballad of Spider John" both make good vehicles for Bush's vocals, and the addition of Al Kooper's organ on "All Night Radio" gives it a funky ease that makes me wonder what Bush and the Band would have sounded like together.
Throughout GLAMOUR AND GRITS, Bush gets solid support from his rhythm section of Cowan on bass, Jon Randall (formerly known as Randy Stewart when he was with the Nash Ramblers) on guitar, and drummer Larry Atamanuik, another graduate of the Emmylou Harris Academy of the Terminally Talented.
It's anyone's guess as to what ensemble Bush will be lending his talents to next. But GLAMOUR AND GRITS serves as a welcome reminder that Sam Bush's forceful and playful presence continues to be a invaluable asset to the world of bluegrass-related music.
Sam, we definitely like it!!
Edited by Shawn Linderman