Howlin' at the Moon
Sugar Hill Records
A review written for Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Howlin' at the Moon is a CD produced by and starring Sam Bush, who is best known as a bluegrass mandolin player. The purchaser may be expecting an album of bluegrass music with a lot of mandolin action. This is not quite the case. While it does have its bluegrass moments (for example, Big Rabbit and Howlin' at the Moon), the CD has tunes and songs that range from pop rock to jazz grass, and from blues to country. Fourteen cuts in all.
So, if you dislike any of the music types listed, maybe this isn't your cup of tea. For those of us who like to listen to a variety of music, the album will be more than entertaining. There are some fine mandolin solos on Ozzie & Max, Cloverleaf Rag, and the fantastic Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Also a fiddle solo on Crossing the Transippi. These are expected given that Bush is a virtuoso on mandolin, and great on fiddle as well. But Bush is more than an instrumentalist. He has been featured as a vocalist on many bluegrass albums and live appearances. Sam contributes vocals on several numbers on this CD - the country sounding Face Tomorrow, and the pop rock Hold On are two examples. The vocals are good. The lyrics seem to remind me of cuts from Sam's New Grass Revival days. From the jacket notes it appears that Sam's only writing credit is for Song for Roy, a nice ballad in memory of bass player Roy Huskey, Jr. Emmylou Harris adds her sweet backing vocals to this cut.
The tunes are mostly fresh material except for Take Me Out to the Ball Game, so you don't have to listen to a lot of retreads. And the mandolin is so tasteful on the CD, especially on Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Ozzie & Max, that you will be delighted. Besides, the wolf man images from the cover make a good conversation starter!
Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz