Sunday, April 20, 2008

Interview with New Grass pioneer Sam Bush

April 20, 2008

Interview and photos by Scott Preston

sam bush, mandolin, newgrass, bluegrassThough he admits a certain discomfort with the moniker "King of Newgrass," Sam Bush has more than earned it. As cofounder and leader of the seminal progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival through 18 years during the 1970s and '80s, Bush may not be the only person responsible for newgrass, the wild bluegrass stepchild that features rock 'n' roll grooves and extended virtuosic jams, but since New Grass Revival's dissolution in 1989, Bush has certainly been one of the most brilliant of newgrass's many bright lights.

Besides helming the ever-popular Sam Bush Band, featured on the upcoming release Laps in Seven, the mandolin prodigy from Kentucky has been a prodigious influence on musicians young and old. Bands like Nickel Creek, Yonder Mountain String Band, and String Cheese Incident, to name just a few, are indebted to Bush's example, not only in his wide-ranging choice of material and rock-based acoustic grooves, but by his captivating, high-energy live shows, which have made him an in demand headliner, and fan fave at important festivals like Telluride and MerleFest.

When not heading his own band, Bush has spent the past 15 years as a supersideman with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, and the Flecktones; spearheaded boundary-stretching collaborations with Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor, and David Grisman, and driven nearly every "bluegrass supergroup" imaginable with his inimitable mandolin playing. (source -

Cincy Groove: So I understand you recently performed on the floor of the Kentucky Senate?

Sam Bush: It was quite an honor. We play music for people from all over the world, large or small audiences. Then there we are standing there on the Senate floor playing a few songs. It was once of those things that you weren't sure if you were going to be nervous or not. It was really exciting to play there being from Kentucky myself. They also gave us a proclamation, it was resolution number 195. It was quite an experience.

sam bush, bluegrass, newgrass, madolin

Cincy Groove: Are you working on any new projects?

Sam Bush: In a round about way I am, I am in the process of writing with a bunch of people right now. Also trying to get some new songs ready for festival season. I should be ready to start recording in a couple months.

Cincy Groove: Who are you writing/collaborating with?

Sam Bush: Jeff Black and I have been writing together. I think Jeff Black is one of the greatest songwriters I have ever met. I have also been collaborating a little with Alan Roady from Louisville and also Tim Kreckle and Edgar Meyer. We are playing in early May on the west coast, so I am going to collaborate with a few writers out there as well. Just looking for something I haven't done before. In the past year I have been playing with off and on when I'm doing other things with this great saxophone player named Bill Evans. Bill played with Miles Davis when he was in his early twenties, played for years with John McLaughlin. So its one of the heaviest music things that I'm around. Bill Evans has his band Soulgrass, he has this great banjo picker, an outrageous jazz violin player, and then he puts me on mandolin, both acoustic and electric. Its just an amazing fusion that I get to do.

Read the full Interview here

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