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Newgrass titan Sam Bush comes to the Ent Center 

click to enlarge Over a long career, music pioneer Sam Bush has left an indelible mark on modern Americana. - SHELLY SWANGER PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Shelly Swanger Photography
  • Over a long career, music pioneer Sam Bush has left an indelible mark on modern Americana.

The Ent Center for the Arts’ UCCS Presents series has already brought an impressive array of talent to Colorado Springs in the young year, and the momentum continues this week as they welcome multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush to the Shockley-Zalabak Theater on Friday, Feb. 28.

It’s quite accurate to describe Bush — primarily acclaimed for his mandolin, fiddle and vocal skills — as a musical titan, a figure so intimately connected with the rise and development of “progressive bluegrass” that in 2010 Kentucky’s state legislature declared Bush the “Father of Newgrass.”

A child prodigy, Bush made his debut appearance at the Grand Ole Opry as a teenager, and in 1972 formed New Grass Revival with whom he began to perfect his vision of traditional hill country music fused with gospel, reggae, soul, rock and modern jazz. Bush was the sole consistent member of the group, which also included, at various points, banjo wizard Béla Fleck, guitarist Pat Flynn and bassist/vocalist John Cowan. The group toured with singer-songwriter Leon Russell in 1980, documented on a live album recorded at Perkins Palace in Pasadena, California.

New Grass Revival scored their biggest commercial hit in 1989 with their ebullient take on Dennis Linde’s “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” and the group reconvened in 1993 to back up Garth Brooks for his own take on the song, which became a top-five country hit.

Bush released his first solo LP, Late as Usual, in 1985, which featured assists from Western Jubilee all-stars Norman and Nancy Blake. He also joined Mark O’Connor, Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer in bluegrass supergroup Strength in Numbers, which performed at the 1989 Telluride Bluegrass Festival and contributed to Steve Earle’s landmark 1988 LP Copperhead Road.

In subsequent years, Bush has collaborated with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Deborah Holland, Alison Krauss, Tony Rice and co-conspirator Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his star-studded discography and world-class instrumental talents, Bush can boast multiple Grammy awards, four “Mandolin Player of the Year” honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association.

Bush’s latest studio effort, the 2016 LP Storyman, stood as his first studio recording in seven years, and is an excellent offering of his many talents through 11 joyous, original compositions.
The good news doesn’t end there for fans of country and roots music, as long-running country singer-songwriter Travis Tritt will be hitting the Pikes Peak Center on Friday, Feb. 28, for his ongoing solo acoustic tour.

Tritt burst onto the country music scene in the early ’90s, and while he enjoyed the same level of success as the other big country names of the era — Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson — he also bolstered his honky-tonk sound by blending in elements of bluesy Southern rock. While the Nashville industry side of things may have initially balked at Tritt’s lack of a cowboy hat and rock ’n’ roll-inspired ways, he nevertheless quickly racked up four multi-platinum LPs in the first half of the decade, and enjoyed continued success with 1996’s The Restless Kind and 2000’s Down the Road I Go, both certified platinum, and two Grammy wins through his collaborations with Mary Stuart.

Finally, the wildly talented Connecticut-based singer/emcee Ceschi seems to enjoy playing in Colorado Springs, which is certainly nice for us. On Monday, March 2, Ceschi makes his return to the Springs, headlining a full evening of music at the new SIX TWO music space. Falseyedols and Dear Rabbit will provide the local support, and Canadian indie-pop artist Gregory Pepper, a frequent Ceschi collaborator, will also perform.

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