Sign up for newsletter
 

Bush provides reasons to celebrate

City Winery, Boston, April 4, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Sam Bush is typically considered part of the bluegrass crowd. Now, you wouldn't necessarily have thought so the way he attacked that electric mandolin of his during a stirringly, lengthy, hair raising encore of the Allmans' "Midnight Rider" and Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm Your Captain" along with a snippet of Railroad Earth's "I Just Want to Celebrate."

Bush simply tore into the songs, rocking out with a lot of steely guitar courtesy of Stephen Moughin. No one could ever think this was remotely bluegrass-based, but that's the way of the music world these days. Lots of musical potpourris and stylistic journeys.

Bush, of course, is part and parcel of that. Along with his own lengthy solo career, he was part of progressive bluegrass pioneers New Grass Revival.

Certainly, bluegrass remains in Bush's lifeblood as a performer. He surely demonstrated yet again why he has long been regarded as one of the best mandolin players out there. And when he went electric, he made it sound just like an electric guitar. Towards the end of the regular set, Bush shifted over to fiddle, and, well, he was no slouch there either.

Bush employed a stellar band in addition to Moughin. Banjo player Scott Vestal took numerous leads and offered a good contrast to the band leader. Drummer Chris Brown (Bush jokingly introduced him as a seven-time IBMA drummer of the year winner. It was humorous, even if one suspected that Bush has used that line once or twice) set the beat with bassist Todd Parks.

Bush concentrated on his most recent disc, "Storyman" from 2016, starting with "Play By Your Own Rules," a good song to set the pace. "Transcendental Meditation Blues" was a good follow-up.

And not too much later, Bush veered left of center with his cover of the late British soulful singer Robert Palmer's "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley" and its funky rhythms. Bush was no Palmer when it came to singing (Bush is adequate as a lead singer, but not much more than that), but he did the song justice more so on the musical end. Give Bush credit for taking numerous chances on songs you'd think - no way.

But with Bush there was away, and it worked.

Bush clearly has no intention of being segmented into a particular genre. He made his own musical choices - some might say risky - but the proof was whether Bush and band branded the material as their own.. From bluegrass to rock to funk to bluesy tones, there was no doubt. With Bush, there was a lot to celebrate.