The Voltron Prophecies: The Bluegrass All-Stars

It’s not too often that you will hear me claim to really know what the hell I’m talking about when it comes to music. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily rank entirely unrankable things, proclaim “best evers” at the drop of a dime, and even bash a thing or too. But it’s primarily just opinion, as music is a personal thing. Tastes, biases, and most importantly, experiences, are worth a lot more than some guy’s proclamation on a blog. Yet, there’s one truth I always knew to be an absolutely certainty: Sam Bush would kick ass like Hurley in a VW Bus if he ever got involved in the jam band scene. Well, this wish came true at moe.’s Tsunami Relief benefit in 2005. Sam looked like he was having a blast, played his heart out, and really gelled with Trey, moe. and John Medeski. This is one of my favorite shows in the past 5 years, and it was largely due to this long time wish fulfillment. Here, Sam and the gang blow through a smokin’ take on After Midnight:

Despite periodic cheap shots at Dave Matthews, he really is a gifted song writer and routinely provides a pleasing backdrop for a guest jam. One of the most acclaimed shows in the impressive DMB lifespan was their NYE show at the Mothership in 1996. Fortunately, the Flecktones dropped by to strut their stuff and the DMB served Mr. Fleck up a plate of Virginia home cooking. Highlighted by this relaxing Lie In Our Graves, Bela ate it up.

If there is one song from this crew that needs to come out of retirement, it’s Texas Red. Texas Red is a Sam Bush/Bela Fleck composition, and is perhaps hardest song to dance to ever. But it’s the fireplug tune of the Strength In Numbers legacy. There’s not a lot more to say besides I hope they play it and I hope it’s loud. Also, I hope someone tapes it, because big festivals give me panic attacks. The Strength in Numbers lineup looks remarkably similar to this one (Fleck, Bush, Douglas, Meyer, and O’Connor), so the fingers will remain crossed.

My man crush on Sam Bush is starting to really shine though, so I’ll hold the wordy intro here. Besides, this one is meant to highlight Jerry Douglas, so stick with it ‘till you here his chops. This is a Sam Bush original, Same Old River, that routinely makes appearances most anywhere Sam shows up.

Two guys on this list are a bit less familiar, but upon doing a little digging, it’s clear they are apt collaborators in this all-star lineup. Here, Bryan Sutton shows off his virtuoso flatpicking skills with another pickin’ legend, Brad Davis. The other fellow, Luke Bulla, is a grand master fiddle champion. Here’s a really enjoyable rollickin’ one with him and his sis having some fun:

Perhaps the most acclaimed musician of the bunch, Edgar Meyer, gets a little less notoriety in the bluegrass circles. But he’s a god in academia and the critical musical circles that I can’t even begin to comprehend. Edgar takes it deep into classical music and jazz, but always comes back around to bluegrass and Appalachian hill funk. Check out this really pretty number that shows up as the title track on Josh Bell and Edgar Meyer’s crossover classical album (with Sam Bush and Mike Marshall). The best description here comes from “Customer” and his/her review of the album:

“You heard it here, folks. I am a classical fan who, like most other classical fans, shrinks away from the mention of the word “crossover” like it’s got the plague. Heck, I didn’t even know who Sam Bush And Mike Marshall were. Bluegrass? That conjures up in my mind an image of a banjo-pickin’, overall-wearin’ geezer with bad dental hygiene, sitting on his wood porch somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Or at least, that’s what I used to be like until I heard this CD… amazing. Meyer’s compositions are a joy to listen to – they do justice to all the genres they touch upon and exude a joy and warmth in a way that only folk music can.”

That’s pretty much better than anything I got. Until next time, enjoy…

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