Sam Bush honors his friend John Hartford with Radio John

It’s hard to believe that Sam Bush is now among the venerable oldsters of contemporary bluegrass music, at least for those of us who remember him as a brash young rebel with Bluegrass Alliance or New Grass Revival in the 1970s. But time does march on, and Sam has reached 70 years of age, though you’d never guess it watching him on stage.

His legacy is secure in the history of our music – already a member of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame with New Grass Revival – as a mandolinist, fiddler, and vocalist as well as band leader, recording artist, and concert performer. So perhaps this is an appropriate time for some looking back and reflection on Sam’s part.

For his next project Bush has teamed up with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings for Radio John, an album dedicated to and in honor of Sam’s close friend, John Hartford. It includes some of Sam’s favorites from John’s vast catalog of songs, plus ones he enjoyed playing when he and Hartford performed together. Bush plays most of the instruments on the project, his first since 2016.

The record closes with the title track, one Sam wrote with John Pennell, which was cut with the current Sam Bush Band, Wes Corbett on banjo, Stephen Mougin on guitar, Todd Parks on bass, and Wes Brown on drums.

Though it isn’t a Hartford original, the song really captures his spirit, which Sam says was a blast.

“It was a joy to write and record with the Sam Bush Band, doing what I love the most, jamming with the band. Thanks to Béla Fleck for the loan of John’s D banjo for Wes Corbett to play on his first recording with the band.”

Check it out…

Radio John is set for a November 11. Pre-orders and pre-saves are enabled now online.

There is a debut single available, Tall Buildings, Hartford’s imaginings of what it would be like to cut his hair and take a job in the big city. It comes as a free download with pre-orders for the full album.

Nicely done. We can never hear too many John Hartford songs.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.