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Sam Bush

Howlin' at the Moon – 1998 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Brian Wahlert

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CDs by Sam Bush

A popular studio musician, founder of the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival, leader of Emmylou Harris' Nash Ramblers, and perhaps the greatest mandolinist ever, Sam Bush hasn't released many solo albums, but that fact makes this one all the more special.

From start to finish, the seven instrumentals and seven vocal tracks bubble with joy and energy. Despite the generally upbeat and cheery feel of many tracks, stylistically they vary from the straightforward bluegrass of the title track to the more pop-sounding Steve Winwood-written "Hold On" to the rocking Mark Orr song "Beaver Creek Mansion" to the gorgeous fiddle-and-yodel "Crossing the Transippi."

The album ends on a sadder note with "Roy's Song," a simple and heartfelt remembrance of the late, well-loved Nash Ramblers bassist Roy Huskey, Jr., and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," the last song that Bush and Huskey recorded together. Bush does so much - play mandolin and fiddle, write, and sing - so well and has such diverse musical tastes that it's impossible to categorize his work. You just have to hear it to love it.