Considering that he’s the man credited with developing jam band music, mandolinist Sam Bush’s latest album, Laps In Seven, is a remarkably focused work that nonetheless manages to capture the freewheeling spirit of his live shows. The album’s two instrumental tracks, the title cut, inspired by the 7/4 time signature Bush heard as his dog was drinking from his bowl, and a spirited rendition of Jean Luc Ponty’s “New Country,” are the obvious showcases for Bush’s nearly limitless technical gifts, but there’s just as much room to maneuver in the narrative songs like “River Take Me” and “White Bird,” so it’s pretty easy to envision the greatly expanded versions of these songs that will undoubtedly become staples on Bush’s next tour. While that guarantees a certain level of appeal to the moe. and Phish audience, the way that Bush, in producing the album, incorporates his traditional bluegrass instruments into a percussive brand of granola-rock that falls midway between the progressive nü-grass of a Nickel Creek and the smart Triple AAA of a John Hiatt. Opener “The River’s Gonna Run,” a predictably great duet with Emmylou Harris, is as perfect a marriage of a mandolin and a pop hook since R.E.M.‘s “Losing My Religion,” and what makes Laps In Seven such a strong album is that the same could be said for most every song.
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