Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sam Bush - Laps In Seven

Release Date: June 13, 2006
Label: Sugar Hill

If you haven't heard of Sam Bush, you probably don't listen to bluegrass music.  Singer, songwriter, and mandolin expert Bush has been redefining bluegrass for decades.  He got his start in the 60s, founded New Grass Revival, and released, to date, eight solo albums, of which Laps In Seven is the seventh.

Sam is also known as the "King of Telluride," because of his streak of 36 straight appearances at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (out of a possible 37).

The title Laps In Seven came about after Sam noticed that his dog, Ozzie, was seemingly drinking his water in a seven beat pattern.  He made up a tune to go with it, which became the title track, which has a 7/4 time signature (which is rare for bluegrass).

The first album I ever heard which involved Sam Bush was New Grass Revival's 1984 (or was it 1986?) self-titled album.  It became a favorite of mine.  I have also heard the experimental supergroup Strength In Numbers' record, as well as Sam's most recent album, Circles Around You. All were great.

Laps does not have a bad song in the bunch.  It is an eclectic mix of modernized bluegrass covers and his own newgrass.  It starts out pretty subdued, as far as experimenting is concerned, but by the end, we hear electric guitar solos on overdrive ("River Take Me"), saxophones and organs ("White Bird"), and unusual time signatures ("Laps In Seven").

1The River's Gonna Run (written by Julie Miller, featuring Emmylou Harris)4:01
2Bringing in the Georgia Mail (Fred Rose)3:57
3The Dolphin Dance3:14
4On the Road (John Hartford)5:00
5Ridin' That Bluegrass Train (written by Bush, John Pennell, featuring Tim O'Brien)3:46
6I Wanna Do Right (written by Bush, Jeff Black, featuring Shaun Murphy)4:34
7Where There's a Road (Robbie Fulks)3:53
8New Country(Jean Luc Ponty)4:09
9Ballad for a Soldier (Leon Russell)4:35
10River Take Me (Darrell Scott)7:11
11White Bird (David and Linda LaFlamme, featuring Andrea Zonn)6:00
12Laps in Seven (Bush, Byron House, Scott Vestal)5:00

It's very difficult to pick favorites in this bunch.  I do think the album peaks near the end, which is a fresh change from many albums, which start off well and go downhill.  Sam Bush has cemented himself as one of the greatest in the genre, and maybe even all of music.  The only thing better than listening to a Sam Bush album is watching the Sam Bush Band play a 15 minute rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame."


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