Monday, June 14, 2010


SAM BUSH BAND – 6/12/10 Thirsty Ear Festival, Santa Fe, NM

Set List:

Uncle Pen (Bill Monroe cover)
Puppies N’Knapsacks (instrumental)
Mahavishnu Mountain Boys (instrumental)
Eight More Miles to Louisville (Louis M. “Grandpa” Jones cover)
Ridin’ That Bluegrass Train (traditional)
Whisper My Name
Circles Around Me
Out on the Ocean
The Ballad of Stringbean & Estelle
Blue Mountain (instrumental)
Same Ol’ River
Howlin’ at the Moon
Bringin’ in the Georgia Mail (Flatt & Scruggs cover)


One Love * (Bob Marley cover)
Up on Cripple Creek > Goin’up Cripple Creek * (The Band cover > Lester Flatts & the Nashville Grass cover)

Lineup: Sam Bush Band: Sam Bush, Todd Parks, Chris Brown, Scott Vestal, Stephen Mougin, guest (*) Johnny Burns

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Or, as I’ll refer to it for years – the Dusty Ear Festival (^_^)

I like that Santa Fe’s the kind of place where I can show up late in the day to a festival with work clothes still on (i.e. cowboy boots and hat) and feel neither out of place nor that others are constantly staring at me. Of course, the Dusty… er, Thirsty Ear Festival was being held – for one final time – at the Eaves Movie Ranch. You know those movies and TV shows they occasionally make, called Westerns? Apparently this is one of the places they make those. I went to a ghost town once in my Idaho childhood (although, how much of a “ghost town” could it have been, when tourists paid money to view it?) that was very much like this – only less dusty.

The bizarre thing about western movie towns (of which the Santa Fe area boasts at least three) is, much like Hollywood and most of their product, they are very nearly 2-dimensional. Well, not in the scientific sense, of course, but in that only the outer front (or façade) is wholly convincing. The innards of all the buildings are mostly empty and void of furniture, or even paint. It looks great in pictures but can haunt you with a pinprick of suspicion that maybe you’re just as hollow on the inside.

Luckily, there was plenty of good vibes and great music filling, almost literally, every minute of 2 full days, and that made my insides swell with a happiness that proved I wasn’t merely a worker drone after all. Maybe that’s why people flock to hear this kind of, well, antiquated music – it reminds them that they are still human beings.

Darrell Scott was a much-anticipated treat for me to see live. I got wind of him around 2004 (with the stellar “Live in NC” album), but so far hadn’t managed to catch him in the act. Though he played almost his entire hour-long set solo on an acoustic guitar (occasionally joined by Bob Hemminger of Pagosa Springs, CO, as noted below), his songs carry such lyrical weight, emotional resonance, and sure-fire melody, I felt like I had just read a very satisfying novel. Almost all of the songs were from his new album, which I’ve not yet heard, yet I still felt wrapped in them like a threadbare heirloom quilt, familiar, tattered, and loved.

Catching a glimpse of Allison Russell, the statuesque and stupefyingly beautiful darker half of the duo Po’Girl “in the wings” was almost enough to distract me from my trance – almost. Scott sings with the words of a cowboy poet, but his musings are far darker – almost too bleak to find purchase within the constraints of a typical “Nashville” production. If he’s determined to sing songs that way, especially in Nashville, I hope he’s prepared to live within humble means. I also hope he keeps it coming, because music needs a voice like his.

Read more about the Thirsty Ear Festival on Steve Terrell’s music blog – he’s a much better blogger than me anyway, and has more pictures (and better pictures – stupid “free” phones). I just wanted to try and capture proof that Sam Bush was wearing an Albuquerque Isotopes t-shirt, because I’m not sure even I would’ve believed me on that one.

A few notes I jotted down during Sam Bush’s Saturday-closing set: apparently, “Stringbean” was a banjo player for Bill Monroe who was, in fact, killed for the money he was known to keep in his bib overalls, just like the song says; “Blue Mountain” is named for a 150-foot-high hill in Florida where Sam Bush once rented a bicycle and realized, shortly thereafter, the extent of his age; he swapped out mention of “Spike Jones” during “Up On Cripple Creek” for living bluegrass legend “Del McCoury;” and I need to get some New Grass Revival recordings – any recommendations?

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DARRELL SCOTT – 6/13/10 Thirsty Ear Festival, Santa Fe, NM

Set List:

Miracle of Living
The Dreamer
A Crooked Road
The Day before Thanksgiving
Long Wide Open Road
The Man Who Could Have Played Bass for Shanana *
It’s the Whiskey That Eases the Pain *
Love’s Not Through with Me Yet
River Take Me *

* indicates guest Bob Hemminger on tenor sax

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