Sam Bush started many years ago in traditional bluegrass before turning that world on its ear - advancing a genre beyond recognition - and, in the process, became the godfather of what would eventually become known as Jamband music. With Laps In Seven, Bush is still leading the charge and, in many ways, still doing it better than just about anyone. Laps In Seven captures the energy of Bush's live performance with a batch of songs new to his stellar live show, pairing freshness with chops to make this a must-hear for all fans of progressive acoustic music. Bush has always had an excellent ear for song : Laps In Seven includes songs by Darrel Scott, Julie Miller, Leon Russell, Robbie Fulks, and John Hartford and a cover of It's a Beautiful Day's classic 'White Bird'! Includes guests Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Jean-Luc Ponty, Tim O'Brien, and Shaun Murphy (Little Feat).
As one of the founding fathers of the bluegrass/jazz hybrid dominating the new acoustic scene, Sam Bush has always kept a close eye on songcraft and tradition, even as he looks toward expanding the expressive and commercial potential of traditional styles. If his previous album, King of the World
, was maddeningly eclectic, this, his seventh solo album, sounds more focused and in touch with what made his pioneering work with New Grass Revival so exciting. With the exception of the nimble, dainty instrumental "The Dolphin Dance" and the frenetic, somewhat overwrought electrified jam of the title track, the material preserves the tight punch of a great bluegrass single--even when spilling over the seven-minute mark on Darrell Scott's "River Take Me" or layering organ and female backing vocals for an R&B groove on "I Wanna Do Right" (an homage to Hurricane Katrina victims, cowritten with Jeff Black). His band (featuring Byron House on bass, Keith Sewell on guitar, and Scott Vestal on banjo) blazes straight through the tricky 5/4 time of John Hartford's "On the Road" and finds a melodic sweetness to It's a Beautiful Day's classic-rock standard "White Bird." On Julie Miller's "The River's Gonna Run" he gets his first chance to duet with his old friend Emmylou Harris, and also gets a hard Americana drive courtesy of Buddy Miller's chunky guitars. Certainly Bush has made more experimental records, but this one is among his most tuneful and slyly rocking. --Roy Kasten