SAM BUSH, “Circles Around Me,” Sugar Hill. 14 tracks.

After years of experimenting with everything from jazz to rock to blues to funk and a whole lot more, Sam Bush has come home to bluegrass.

And “Circles Around Me” is easily the best album he’s produced in years — at least as far as bluegrass fans are concerned. And it’s also easily one of the best bluegrass albums of the year.

At 57, Bush’s voice seems better than ever.

There are a lot of old songs on here.

Bush updated “Souvenir Bottles” and “Whisper My Name” — songs from his days with New Grass Revival.

He’s also reunited with Courtney Johnson, a bandmate from New Grass Revival who died in 1996, on “Apple Blossom.” The tune was recorded in 1976, but was never released. The tape was restored and new parts were added for this album.

Del McCoury duets with Bush on a couple of Bill Monroe songs — “Roll On  Buddy, Roll On” and “Midnight On The Stormy Deep.”

Also on the album are a couple of songs Bush enjoyed as a fan 40 years or more ago — “Diamond Joe” and “You Left Me Alone.”

But some of the best songs on the album are those that Bush wrote or co-wrote.

The title cut is a beautiful song about surviving life.

And “The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle” is a ballad about the 1973 murders of former Bill Monroe banjo player and Grand Ole Opry star David “Stringbean” Akeman and his wife Estelle.
The killers found little to steal in the couple’s cabin, but 23 years later, $20,000 was discovered behind a brick in the chimney — too rotted to be of any value. One killer died in prison, the other is still incarcerated.

There’s not a bad cut on the entire album.

This is Sam Bush at his best.

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CORINNE WEST, “The Promise,” Make Records. Nine tracks.

Corinne West is best described as an Americana artist. Her music is a blend of folk, rock, country and bluegrass.

She’s been on the road since she was 15, absorbing life in America. And it shows in her writing. She wrote eight of the nine tracks on the album.

Some of West’s previous albums contained songs that had strong bluegrass influences. But “The Promise” is mostly progressive folk.

Bluegrass fans will have to wait for the next album.

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