Sam Bush was at the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte last night. My wife had a church meeting and couldn’t go. It was a long drive and she knew we’d get back late so she insisted I invite a friend. I decided to call up a buddy who was new to bluegrass. He’d been introduced to the genre listening to me play the mandolin at some local shows.
“Hey, Matt. You want to go see Sam Bush?”
“Who is he?”
“Good Lordy man, he’s a mandolin hero.”
“So he’s pretty good?”
“Good?! Man he’s among the very best. In my top three in the world.”
“Sure Doc. If you recommend him he’s good by me.”
So we took off. We got there late. Some cute young lady was the opening act and was on her last number. We waited for what seemed an eternity. Every so often a stage hand would come out and bring a rack of instruments. When he opened the curtains you could see the shadows of the performers backstage. Some of the sound equipment was still stenciled with the logo ‘Nash Ramblers’ from Sam’s days with Emmy Lou Harris. The mics emitted an impatient low hum as they waited.
The lights went down, and there was an opening drum roll. Steve Mougins’ electric Strat guitar screamed ‘Take me out to the Ball Game.” The game was on.
If you never seen Sam Bush, go. Two and half non stop rocking hours. Sam dripped in sweat and worked the stage like a mandolin Mick Jagger. It was everything from from Scott Vestal’s hard driving banjo on “Roll in my Sweet Baby’s Arms’ to Marley’s ‘One Love.’ When you intro ‘Bringing in the Georgia Mail’ with five minutes of perfect right hand reggae rhythm and choreograph it with snatches of interpretive dance, you are an eclectic artist and THE mando man.
There was ‘Eight More Miles to Louisville” with in your face Bill Monroe down-strokes, plenty of ‘Howling at the Moon,’ piercing Mandocaster electric licks, and new tunes from his upcoming October release. (I’m gonna leave it to Sam to tell you about it, but it’s gonna be another class CD.)
“River Take Me,” I was a pig in mud.
My buddy was mesmerized. On the way home I asked him what he thought.
“Doc, I didn’t you could do all that on that thing.”
“Neither did I pal. That’s why I’m still a Doctor.”
If you like any kind of music, if you need to clear your head of your troubles for a night, or if you just don’t want to miss an American icon, go see Sam Bush. He’s at the top of everyone’s mando list.
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