It's been almost six years since the King of Newgrass has played Durango, but bluegrass fans will have to wait little more than a week to see Sam Bush take the stage at the Community Concert Hall.
Bush is eager to return to Durango. An enthusiastic audience and the food cooked by Paul and company at the Palace Restaurant are the attractions that excite him most.
The last time the mandolin virtuoso and leader of the progressive bluegrass band New Grass Revival came through town, he was on a Mardi Gras tour with Leftover Salmon.
Since that time, Bush has put out two albums on the Sugar Hill label: "King of My World" (2003) and "Laps in Seven" (2004), both of which were chart-toppers in the bluegrass realm. Besides, he's created specialty projects and DVDs and collaborations along with playing festivals. Bush is no slouch.
In line with his rigorous schedule and level of productivity, his New Year resolutions are to "have more musical fun, more often."
Bush is currently in pre-production, planning a new CD. During a phone interview earlier in the week from his home in Nashville, Tenn., he said he's been writing the last year and will allocate the bulk of February to the studio. As is characteristic of his hard-to-pin-down sound, sometimes bluegrass, sometimes reggae, and rock, and country, and pop and blues, the direction for his new CD is not mapped out.
"We are still looking for a new sound that's not yet been made," he said.
His band consists of Stephen Mougin on guitar and vocals, Scott Vestal on banjo and his longtime friend Byron House on bass. Bush met House when they were in their teens, growing up in Bowling Green, Ky.
In 1999, almost 30 years after that first jam session, House's musical career came full-circle when he landed the enviable bass gig in Bush's touring band.
Through House, drummer Chris Brown came on board.
Two patterns emerge when looking at this talented group of musicians. First, they all started playing music at a young age. Mougin has been playing since age 6, Bush bought his first mandolin at age 11 and Vestal hit his first guitar chords at the age of 13. Second, they all moved to the "Music City," Nashville.
Although their Durango performance won't feature any of their new album material, they have "a bank of songs that we're still interested in and some new ones we've never played."
When asked what the difference is between playing a large festival like RockyGrass and a small venue, Bush said he is not as limited in time and he can meet the audience more in the latter.
"The biggest mess-up to make when playing a festival is playing too long and not giving others the time they need," he said.
Because it's the off-season in baseball, Bush fans can expect a wardrobe different from his usual baseball jersey. Bringing up his love for baseball, Bush says he stays in Denver three days before his gig at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival every June to see the Rockies play and labels it necessary to acclimate to the altitude. Even though he claims he's not superstitious, he says he wears his Cardinals cap only once a year for good luck.
While Bush's shows are known for fast jams and upbeat tempos, his advice to beginning musicians is to learn to play slowly.
"Speed will come later. Let the joy of learning be its own joy. Concentrate on learning the scales and meter, and then the fast notes will sound better."
Karin L. Becker teaches composition at Fort Lewis College.