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Sam Bush & David Grisman

Hold On, We're Strummin' – 2003 (Acoustic Disc)

Reviewed by Brad San Martin

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CDs by Sam Bush & David Grisman

One could approach this meeting of the mandos with a bit of cynicism. The supersession format, while producing the occasional sparks, seems so often content to wallow in endlessly useless displays of chops, musical incompatibility (with pairings based more on marquee value than genuine empathy) and hastily assembled material.

Sam Bush and David Grisman are colleagues and contemporaries, but what's more important, they are friends - and their mutual respect and affection for one another makes this project one of the more enjoyable disks either has released in a decade. Playful sparring sits alongside more contemplative, reflective musing, each heightening the impact of the other.

The disk achieves a near-perfect balance between obvious strengths and more eccentric digressions. Grisman's collection of arcane and bizarre old instruments is aired on occasion, with appropriate means to an end (i.e., the use of a National Steel mandolin on the bluesy "Swamp Thing"). Conversely, there are plenty of mandolin duos - some forlorn, some frisky.

Consisting mostly of newly-composed themes, the compositions have substance and are not the flashy toss-offs or predictable covers. Encompassing a wide variety of influences, peerless technique, and palpable camaraderie, this album is one to savor repeatedly.