Circles Around Me, Bush's seventh solo album is a mix of classic bluegrass covers and new originals. Quite possibly this is Bush’s most cohesive release. Bush has always been a dichotomy. He is influenced by the old but is the original innovator of the new. Hell, he literally coined the term new grass with his original band New Grass Revival, which he founded. The young innovators of today like Chris Thile, Infamous Stringdusters, Old Crow Medicine Show, Chatham County Line, Hackensaw Boys, Crooked Still and more recently the likes of Sarah Jarosz, owe their success to Bush, Bela Fleck, John Cowan and their peers.
On this new release, Bush blends the old and new seamlessly with both covers and original compositions. Produced by Bush, Circles Around Me includes appearances by Del McCoury, Edgar Meyer and Jerry Douglas to name a few. Let’s not forget Bush's own band; Scott Vestal, Stephen Mougin, Byron House and Chris Brown, which is one of the best in all of Bluegrass.
The album includes some great songwriting collaborations. The title cut was co-written with Jeff Black. My favorite is "The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle," which Bush co-wrote with Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson. This song is a true story of the 1973 murder of Grand Ole Opry star David "Stringbean" Akeman and his wife. "Souvenir Bottles" and "Whisper My Name" are re-workings of New Grass Revival songs. These songs build a nice bridge to the traditional tunes on the record. Del McCoury lends his unmistakable tenor on two Bill Monroe covers, "Roll On Buddy, Roll On" and "Midnight on the Stormy Deep." However, the most poignant and powerful of the traditional songs is the excellent rendition of "Diamond Joe."
Whatever you perspective, Circles Around Me gives us an artist that obviously is content where he is now, where he came from and where he is headed. Maybe that is why he just received the AMA lifetime achievment award.
Check out his AMA performance: