In the late ’70s, Sam Bush was getting booed onstage at the Stone Valley Bluegrass Festival, held just across the Ohio state line in southeastern Indiana. At the time, he was playing with his now-renowned band New Grass Revival, and the group’s drums and electric bass were getting the purist grassholes in attendance all riled up. But eventually Bush and crew reverted back to some traditional fare and the audience was happy and dancing again.
That has always been the case with Bush, and his open-minded, multi-genre approach to Bluegrass music, partly inspired by John Hartford’s 1971 album Aereo-Plain, became known as Newgrass. That is also why the Kentucky General Assembly passed legislation naming native son Bush (he was born in Bowling Green) the “Father of Newgrass” in 2010.
These days, the Sam Bush Band carries on that tradition. Backed by banjo master Scott Vestal, guitarist Stephen Mougin, bassist Todd Parks and “Eight-Time International Bluegrass Music Association’s Drummer of the Year” (a tongue-in-cheek designation by Bush during introductions) Chris Brown, Bush is liable to throw down some jams by Bob Marley and the Allman Brothers Band while still bringing the Bluegrass fire. At his recent gig at North Carolina’s MerleFest, Bush went from songs by J.J. Cale and Stevie Wonder to Doc Watson and Bill Monroe covers, which fit nicely alongside his own fine tunes.
SAM BUSH BAND plays Taft Theatre Friday, June 6 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets/more info here.