Sam Bush has been one of the most respected and loved bluegrass icons since his work with the New Grass Revival during the early '70s. Few folk today remember what a stir the New Grass Revival made at the time with their long hair and acoustic rock take on "Great Balls of Fire." On 2006's Laps in Seven, singer/mandolinist Bush covers the bluegrass continuum with ease, offering fairly traditional fare like "Bringing in the Georgia Mail" and progressive jazz like Jean-Luc Ponty's "New Country." It's an eclectic stew, and he has no problem shifting from acoustic to electric, from vocals to instrumentals. Even with this open approach, Bush's music often expresses a "settled" quality that feels rather safe and lacking in soul. A prime example is his take on John Hartford's "On the Road" (from Hartford's Morning Bugle LP). Obviously, Bush has a great appreciation for Hartford's music, and he's chosen -- structurally -- one of his most challenging songs. Bush's vocal and the band's plodding, however, change Hartford's edgy paean to living on the road into a song that wouldn't be too out of place on bluegrass radio. Sure, Bush's mandolin solo is breezy and, unlike Hartford's version, a listener can actually understand the lyrics. But something has been lost in the process. "I Wanna Do Right," filled with a buoyant groove and soulful backing vocals, works much better, though the song may remind old New Grass Revival fans of "Going to the Fair." Despite these criticisms, Bush can't be accused of sleeping on the job. He always turns out a professional product that pleases fans, and in this fashion, Laps in Seven is no different.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
feat: Emmylou Harris
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feat: Jean-Luc Ponty