Sam Bush & David Grisman
Hold On, We're Strummin'
First Appeared at The Music Box, October 2003, Volume 10, #10
Written by John Metzger
Over the years, Sam Bush and David Grisman have collaborated on numerous projects, but they’ve never managed to sit down and record a full-fledged album together — until now. Hold On, We’re Strummin’ features eleven new Grisman-Bush compositions and several other odds and ends, including a brilliant reconfiguration of the Isaac Hayes-David Porter tune that was a hit for Sam & Dave (Hold On, I’m Comin’) and partially lends the collection (from an entirely different Sam & Dave) its title. The album’s mix of breezy jazz and earthy bluegrass is pleasingly beautiful and wholly inspired, tapping into the same cosmic energy that fueled Grisman’s first outing with Jerry Garcia as well as their subsequent Shady Grove.
For certain, there’s a little bit of everything floating within the music of Hold On, We’re Strummin’, though this isn’t all that surprising given that for decades both Bush and Grisman have been working hard to push bluegrass far beyond its natural borders. Both have an endearing and enduring love for both Bill Monroe and Jethro Burns, though both have also taken the genre further than either of their influences ever dreamed possible. In addition, Grisman and Bush have spawned a myriad of up-and-coming artists who share the duo’s diverse tastes and virtuosic abilities, though most of the followers have yet to get past mere instrumental wanking.
With Hold On, We’re Strummin’, Bush and Grisman demonstrate exactly how it’s done, crafting a sterling set that shimmers and glows with radiant translucence. Mandolin is the primary vehicle for each, but being multi-instrumentalists, the duo also employs various combinations of fiddle, mandola, banjo, mandocello, and banjo-mandolin to bring their songs to life. Add to this some masterful guitar work from Jack Lawrence, Enrique Coria, Dimitri Vandellos, and Jim Nunally; deft bass from Sam Grisman and Jim Kerwin; and dynamic percussion from Hal Blaine, and the colors and textures available become monumental, turning the music into an opalescent wonderland of sounds.
Perhaps what is most astounding about Hold On, We’re Strummin’ is that two-thirds of the tracks are performed by Grisman and Bush with, at most, one additional performer, yet the duo frequently sounds like a much larger ensemble. Just listen to Jamgrass 741 — a song that features just Bush and Grisman, yet carries an air that feels like there is far more going on inside it.
Indeed, the only real problem with Hold On, We’re Strummin’ is its length. Clocking in at an unwieldy 70 minutes, there are moments when it does tend to bog down slightly. But this is truly a minor issue, given not only the significance of this collaboration, but also the heavenly sounds that the duo generates.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box