Sam Bush at 60

Sam Bush headlined the main stage at FloydFest on Sunday, and did a workshop on the Virginia Folklife Porch immediately afterwards.

I wanted to follow up on some buzz he has posted on his website wherein he exercises his new “rights” as a senior citizen by catching the senior shopper and senior movie days.

DF:  It’s been a year of losses, in bluegrass. As we start to lose that generation of musicians, and as you’re officially reaching that “age,” do you identify yourself, musically, as a “senior citizen” of bluegrass or Americana yet?

SB:  No, not really. Yes, I’ve hit 60, and I’m old enough that I’ve gotten to see all the greats of bluegrass.  I got to see the Stanley Brothers, Don Reno and his band, Doc, Bill Monroe, the Osborne Brothers, so I feel pretty fortunate that I’ve gotten to see some of the bluegrass greats when they were in their prime of life. Just this year, we lost Doc, and Earl, and Doug Dillard, so I miss them. I used to get to play with all of them and I won’t get to see them anymore. It makes me sad.

But it makes me happy that I got to play with them so much in their lifetimes. I think a lot of people are missing them right now, because we had them to look up to our whole lives.

DF:  At some point do we need to draw a box around bluegrass and say, this is “it” and everything else that happens from here to somewhere else, is great, but “this” IS bluegrass…. This is the pure starting point.

SB:  No, I don’t feel that delineation. When I was a kid, people would say (about what we were playing) ‘that’s not bluegrass’ and we would say ‘yes, we know, we agree.’

That being said, Doc never called himself a bluegrass performer. He called it country blues or good old country. So, I think the lines of delineation are drawn by the fans, and not among the musicians. Even forty years ago, in New Grass Revival, with the Osborne Brothers,  Jim and Jesse… we all got along, loved each other. They were the big brothers we looked up to, so, I don’t want to think of myself as the father of anything, but I’d sure like to think of myself as the uncle of my young brothers that play bluegrass style music now.

Sam told me he’s in the fledgling stages of planning a mini tour with Del McCoury.

“Del has always encouraged me to sing. I never felt confident as a singer and he has always encouraged me. He is one of the reasons why I sing today. I needed an older brother to encourage me to sing. Those two tunes on Circles Around Me, that we did, Roll On Buddy and Midnight on the Stormy Deep, Del sang with Bill Monroe. I don’t think he ever recorded Stormy, but he did record Roll On Buddy with him.

Singing with Del scares the hell out of me. I think if there is a King of Bluegrass, his name is Del. I am flattered that he would consider doing a two man show with me. We’ll do five in November, and then a few more in December and see where we are.

Nobody loves Del McCoury more than I do. Well… maybe Jean does. But by golly, I love Del McCoury.”

When asked which up and coming bands he’s excited about, he  laughed.

“Well, see the thing is, if I have time to listen to a lot of new music, it means I’m not that busy, which I am! But right off the top of my head, I’d have to say The Punch Brothers, and The Infamous Stringdusters and Sierra Hull are all great up and coming groups.“

Who else would Sam like to collaborate with? Anyone on his bucket list?

“Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.“ He paused for a second. “And Ian Anderson! He made this incredible record, solo, The Secret Language of Birds, one of the greatest records ever made in my opinion.“

I had that record on vinyl, and that is certainly a collaboration I would stand in line to see ….here’s hoping!

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About the Author

Diane Farineau

Diane Farineau, her husband, photographer, Milo and their friend, photographer, Chester Simpson, hatched a brilliant plan last year to write a book about music festivals. Somewhere along the way The Festival Project, as it has now become, turned into a website and a blog and an amazing journey into the world of today's bluegrass and Americana artists and festival scene. When not listening to or writing about music, Diane has a day job as a hospital administrator, is a mom of two musical teenagers, and writes about life's never ending stream of ironies.