You may have seen Sam Bush before: when he was in the New Grass Revival, when they were backing Leon Russell; when he was leading Emmylou Harris's backup band; when he was guesting with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones; or when he was a part of Lyle Lovett's Big Band. Bush comes from the bluegrass world, but his music is equally influenced by rock, jazz and blues. His main instrument is the mandolin, and he plays it like no other person who's ever picked one up; he can do all the basic bluegrass runs, but he adds an aggressive attack and an inventive approach to improvisation that invariably takes his solos on melodic flights of fancy. He's also a darn good fiddler and can play electric guitar as well.
If you see Bush's name in the credits on a CD -- and he gets plenty of session work -- you can be assured the album will be worth your time. But until now, the solo albums released under his own name have been a little disappointing. This changes with Ice Caps: Peaks of Telluride, a new live recording out on Sugar Hill Records that collects material recorded with a variety of musicians over the last 10 years of appearances at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The album is the greatest single introduction to Sam Bush's work you can buy: It's got great songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, John Hiatt, Van Morrison, Bill Monroe and Little Feat, and Bush and his compatriots play their hearts out.
Though guest stars such as Fleck and Jerry Douglas aren't touring with Bush, the CD offers plenty of musical inducement for you to circle this event on your calendar: This concert is a chance to stand mere feet away from one of the world's great musicians. Be prepared for an amazing experience.