Revival: The Sam Bush Story

97 min. Wayne Franklin & Kris Wheeler, dist. by Amazon.com. 2018. HD $19.99 (Rental: $4.99). MUSIC
Bluegrass mandolin and fiddle marvel Sam Bush (b. 1952), one of the fathers of Newgrass, is now a legend, although he started out in the 1960s and 1970s as more of an outlier. Though influenced by Bill Monroe and other straight-ahead bluegrass performers, he was determined to go his own way and not limit his repertoire to "traditional" bands and music. His output contains rock, reggae, blues, and even some punk touches. He says ruefully in this straightforward documentary that he's too young to be an old legend—"but in ten years…." Young artists such as Chris Thile, Jeff Austin, and Alison Krauss join more seasoned performers David Grisman, Emmylou Harris, Béla Fleck, the late Guy Clark, Del McCoury, and even John Oates to sing Bush's praises and tell stories. Bush is interviewed as well, but he's somewhat reserved, even when discussing his bout with testicular cancer in 1982. The brightest spots here are the long, lovingly shot live performances by Bush with his current band as well as with young stars of the bluegrass scene.
VERDICT Some may prefer to see footage of Bush's past bands (New Grass Revival) and collaborations (with Leon Russell, John Hartford, Harris) instead of quite so many talking heads, but fans of bluegrass, Newgrass, and Bush will enjoy this tribute.

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