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Sam Bush - King Of My World

King Of My World

Sam Bush

SUG-CD-3987

Sugar Hill Records
P.O.Box 55300
Durham, NC 27717-5300

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Guntram Gudowius
(gg10555@yahoo.de)

Anyone who has listened to acoustic string music over the last 30 years or so must have come across the name Sam Bush, whether in Bluegrass, Folk, Country, Blues or Jazz productions. His name has become a seal of quality and promise of an innovative and fun approach to traditional and cover songs, as well as his original material. Getting his first widespread recognition as a member of the band "New Grass Revival," this wizard of the strings was sought after as a session player by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks, just to name a few of the long list.

King Of My World is Samīs 5th album as a front man and being a studio recording it features Sam on more than one instrument on seven of the eleven cuts. Still, thereīs never the feeling of overproduction. The music retains the sound of a live band, thanks in no small part to the excellent musicians who have been long time members of Samīs road band. No matter the style of music they chose for a song, it is a joy to follow the melody lines of the instruments which never fail to get some part of the body moving in time. Though Samīs fingers are his greatest asset, he has a fine voice and delivers the words to the songs in a very natural and unpretentious way.

The album opens with an original tune in Bluegrass style called Puppies 'N' Knapsacks, featuring Sam on fiddle, mandolin and banjo, masterfully showing his roots and experience. A Better Man, a blues song by Keb Mo has introduced to me the slide mandolin, leave it to Sam to come up with that one. A successful interpretation of the original, it just takes a little getting used to Samīs smooth voice in contrast to Kebīs more gravely version.

Grandpa Jones' Eight More Miles To Louisville is pure fast Bluegrass with fine harmony singing. Theyīre Gonna Miss Me When Iīm Gone and the title track, King Of My World are songs by Nashville-based songwriter Jeff Black. The former is a fast paced complaint of non appreciation; the latter a relaxed statement that even in noisy and polluted surroundings there are hidden quiet places to enjoy..."didnīt need nothing but my own peace of mind."

Wedged in between those songs is Samīs tune Bananas. Itīs the theme of his mandolin playing on that one, ear-boggling licks and a fun melody that is picked up by Brad Davis on guitar that reminds me a little bit of Duelling Banjos, though this is more intricate and swingy. Bass and drums underscore the rhythm perfectly.

Spirit Is The Journey by South African musician Johnny Clegg finds Sam and his band moving on the World Music stage with reggae rhythms and the addition of Reese Wynans on organ. Byron House shows off with great runs on his electric bass during a break. Ed Snodderlyīs Majestic, about a street shoe shiner, features Sam again on slide mandolin. Sam and Jon Pennell wrote Bless His Heart around this Southern phrase that evens out any bad-mouthing.

The Mahavishnu Mountain Boys is the title of Samīs tune that he remembered from a conversation with a guy in a festival audience at the beginning of "New Grass Revival". The tune features Sam on fiddle and fuses Bluegrass and jazzy elements.

Finishing off the album is The Wizard Of Oz, a swing tune written again by Sam and Jon.

Throughout a very fine and tasteful production by Sam Bush. where all contributing musicians have their chance to shine and it shows that they have been road tested, "Feelgood Music" at its best!

The Musicians:

Sam Bush - vocals, fiddle, mandolin, slide mandolin, banjo, guitar
Brad Davis - vocals, guitar, BradBender
Jon Randall Stewart - vocals, guitar
Byron House - vocals, acoustic and electric bass
Chris Brown - drums
Reese Wynans - piano, organ
Andrea Zonn - vocals, fiddle (on "Wizard")
Larry Atamanuik - drums (on "Wizard")

The booklet lists each track with the featured musicians and portrait photos of each band member, no lyrics. There is 50 minutes of music, a lot for Sugar Hill standards, but I wonīt quit complaining about the wasted space, especially when the music is so much fun. Most likely the foreign market is of no consideration, but with imported CDs priced at $25 or more for me here in Germany, the amount of music certainly becomes a criteria and CDs with less than 40 min don't even get considered, no matter who the artist is.

Edited by: David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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