Sam Bush plays "newgrass" at 9 p.m. Saturday at Ghost Ranch Saloon.

Courtesy Photo

Sam Bush plays "newgrass" at 9 p.m. Saturday at Ghost Ranch Saloon.

Sam Bush turns to tradition in approach to 'newgrass'

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"The River's Gonna Run" by Sam Bush

If you go

What: Sam Bush, newgrass

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ghost Ranch Saloon, 56 Seventh St.

Cost: $30 in advance, $35 on the day of the show

Call: 879-9898; advance tickets available online at www.ghostranchsal...

Sam Bush played the drums in his high school marching band.

The pioneering Americana musician recognizes that experience for the inherent sense of rhythm that makes it so easy for him to apply nearly any style of music to his old-time instruments.

The rest of the credit goes to the musicians Bush admires, from classic figures to Stewart Copeland, who played drums for The Police.

"For instance, the way I play rhythm on the mandolin comes from not only the way Bill Monroe played the mandolin, but from the way Bob Marley played rhythm on the guitar," Bush said, on the phone from his home in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday. Bush and his band will come to Steamboat for the second time in 2009 with a show Saturday at Ghost Ranch Saloon.

For the past four decades, Bush has been a leading name in the reinvention of American music, using his skills as a mandolin player, guitarist, singer and songwriter to coin a musical term and an accompanying revitalization of mountain music.

A few key instruments keep the jazz, world, classical and rock elements of the Sam Bush Band sound together, and each style variation can be encompassed in the word "newgrass," Bush said. The term started as part of Bush's seminal 1970s and '80s roots band New Grass Revival and spread over the years through the press and into the lexicon.

Bush's group wasn't the first to take a progressive approach to traditional instruments. Still, from its formation in 1971 to its final show on New Year's Eve 1989, the band pulled so much jazz, reggae and rock into its sound that it pushed fiddle, banjo and mandolin tunes if not to the mainstream, somewhere close.

"Really somewhere in the early '80s, it seemed newgrass really became a generic term for the style of music," Bush said.

Backed by Byron House on bass, Scott Vestal on banjo, Stephen Mougin on guitar and Chris Brown on drums, Bush recently recorded a set of more traditional bluegrass tunes called "Circle Around Me." A few of those new recordings of old songs likely will make Saturday's set, Bush said. The record is expected out in October, he said.

"Just some of these songs that I've been playing over a period of years, there are a few on there that are old bluegrass tunes : the time felt right to be doing these kinds of things," Bush said, noting a reduction in fusion and a return to comfortable musical places.

The band can handle a full-blown, electric, rock 'n' roll show, but it likely will stick to an acoustic sound Saturday, Bush said.

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