February 18, 2011
Raleigh is beginning to get some notice as a music scene, with lots of action downtown in the pubs and restaurants, but last night the best show in town was Sam Bush and his band, featuring Scott Vestal on banjo at the Progress Energy Center. If you've never seen Bush play, or aren't aware of his legacy, he was among a small group of young musicians in the 1970s who started taking bluegrass out of its hidebound traditions and fusing it with other forms of music. He was part of several highly innovative bands such as Bluegrass Alliance and later New Grass Revival, hanging around with the likes of Bela Fleck, Vince Gill, John Cowan, and Tony Rice, all superstars of the "roots" genre. In his concerts, there are moments of bluegrass music woven into jazz, rock, fusion, reggae and pure country. Stevie Wonder even got in the act through an adaptation. It is a delight to behold, and Scott Vestal was particularly notable in the mix. Joyful Sam Bush is as good on fiddle as he is mandolin, sometimes playing both in the same song. The opening act was a band called Bearfoot, who bears watching for upcoming dates in the area. They were really strong, though more traditional in sound than Bush and his mates.
During the evening, I also discovered something about the association that produced the show. It is called Pine Cone, and its calling is to preserve, present, and promote traditional music in the Triangle. They produce a series of concerts each year, but also promote other musical "goings on" in the area around Raleigh and as far south as Pittsboro and Sanford. There is a lot of good music locally to choose from, of course, but if you are into this kind of music as a player, or listener, it's worth checking out their web site at www.pinecone.org for more information on their offerings, which include other producers' music dates, jams, sessions, etc. I plan to do just that.