November 2007

Sam Bush - Laps in Seven
Sugar Hill SUG-CD-4013
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Sam Bush continues to deliver great entertainment with his well-known virtuoso mandolin, solid guitar and fiddle playing, and competent vocals. The excellent opening track here, Julie Miller’s "The River’s Gonna Run," is more like rock than bluegrass. But ‘grass is just around the bend; track 2, Fred Rose’s "Bringing in the Georgia Mail," hits overdrive. Fueled in large part by Scott Vestal’s high-octane banjo pickin’, it’s got an energy-packed acoustic-guitar solo by Keith Sewell and interesting standup-bass licks by Byron House. Add Chris Brown’s fine job on drums, and you’ve got the band, with only occasional additions or subtractions. Those two songs represent the disc pretty well musically, except that a couple tracks are instrumental. Remember "White Bird" by the late-'60s/early-'70s rock band It’s a Beautiful Day? ("White bird must fly or she will die?") It is the 11th of this disc’s 12 tracks. Andrea Zonn does the original Pattie Santos vocal to Bush’s David LaFlamme in an arrangement that adds violin and viola. Also included are John Hartford’s "On the Road" and Leon Russell’s "Ballad for a Soldier." The recording quality and mix are good throughout; you can distinguish the individual instruments well.

Bush’s slower songs usually add an R&B or gospel sound rather than the occasional moving melody that would add greatly to his repertoire. The driving-rhythms/speedy-tempos/lightning-solos approach also dominates Bush’s recently released On the Road DVD -- 16 onstage tracks from the Big Room at the Sierra Nevada Brewery. Good stuff, but not as consistent as Laps in Seven.