More than a few years ago, Lyle Lovett took his famed Large Band to the Kentucky Center for Arts in Louisville with a few new recruits in the ranks.
Lovett and company were pictures of Americana poise that night. But over on stage right, a pretzel-thin figure was bent over his mandolin, his head and hair bobbing about like a basketball. The serious Kentucky fans in the audience knew immediately who was at work. The player was one of their own: Sam Bush.
For roughly four decades, Bush has been associated with some of the most esteemed names in country and bluegrass music — from his '80s tenure with Emmylou Harris' Nash Ramblers to moonlighting in the '90s as a Flecktone with banjoist and longtime pal Béla Fleck.
More recently, Bush has been collaborating with country star Dierks Bentley, speaking at a bluegrass symposium at Harvard and, of course, designing new songs and stylistic voices with his always creative Sam Bush Band. The latter even helped reopen last week the newly restored Grand Ole Opry House, which had been severely damaged by Nashville's floods in May.
Friday night, Bush is home. The Bowling Green native and Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inductee will headline a Spotlight Lexington show that also features one of his biggest home state inspirations, banjo great J.D. Crowe.
J.D. Crowe and the New South will kick off the free mainstage fun at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza about 6 p.m. The Sam Bush Band will then play until the you-know-whats come home.