Chattanooga Now King of Newgrass holds court at Track 29 Thursday

Chattanooga Now King of Newgrass holds court at Track 29 Thursday

February 17th, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Music


What: The Sam Bush Band.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.

Admission: $22 in advance, $25 at the door.

Phone: 521-2929.

Venue website:

He might not have received a scepter and a crown, but as far as Kentucky is concerned, Sam Bush is the king of newgrass.

Well, technically, a March 2010 declaration by the Bluegrass State's legislature named Bush the genre's father and his hometown, Bowling Green, its birthplace. Nevertheless, fans of progressive bluegrass had all but emblazoned the lightning-fingered mandolinist's name on the throne long ago for his role as a co-founder of the band New Grass Revival.

Despite receiving three Grammy Awards, a lifetime achievement award from the Americana Music Asociation and four Mandolinist of the Year titles from the International Bluegrass Music Association, Bush said that recognition was one of the greatest honors of his 40-year-career.

"It is an honor, and I don't take it lightly," he said during a phone interview from his home in Nashville. "I'm fortunate in that I'm one of quite a few people who have been a spearhead of the so-called 'newgrass movement.'

"I've never called myself the father of newgrass music, but I'm not embarrassed if someone else does."

Bush grew up on a family farm outside Bowling Green, Ky., tending tobacco fields and herding cattle. From those pastoral beginnings, he went on to become an almost elemental force in bluegrass, enacting great changes to the genre's traditions at the head of New Grass Revival, which he helped form in 1971.

Since then, he has recorded and performed with a who's who of acoustic music, including ex-Revivalists John Cowan and Bela Fleck, as well as Mark O'Connor, Edgar Meyer, Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett.

Thursday, he will make a nearly annual visit to Chattanooga with his band for his first appearance at Track 29.

As he enters his 42nd year as a professional musician, Bush said he continues to find new, exciting ways to play, even as the torch passes to a second generation of progressive mandolinists such as Leftover Salmon's Drew Emmitt and Punch Brothers' Chris Thile.

And despite the imminent arrival of his 60th birthday in April, Bush said he's having more fun than ever and expects to occupy his throne for many years to come.

"I said this years ago, but it's almost true: In my brain, I'm still 20," he said, laughing. "Yeah, your body tells you you're a little more toward 60, but I've never enjoyed playing more.

"I honestly hope I have a long way to go because I'm certainly not ready to stop playing."