When asked to name the two most influential mandolin players of the last twenty years most mandolin aficionados will say Sam Bush and David Grisman. Although they have shared the same stage and often jammed together, they’ve never released any joint studio recordings playing together. Hold On, We’re Strummin’ rectifies this serious oversight.
Recorded at Grisman’s Dawg Studios during April 2001, except for four tunes, Hold On, We’re Strummin’ consists entirely of new material composed especially for this release. Titles like “Crusher and Hoss,” named after their two primary signature mandolins, and “Hartford’s Reel,” dedicated to the memory of their friend, the late John Hartford, indicate the personal and intimate nature of the music on Hold On, We’re Strummin’. Besides their regular vintage Gibson F-5 mandolins Grisman and Bush play mandocello, octave mandolin, National steel-bodied mandolin, fiddle, octave mandola, banjo-mandolin, and even (sigh) banjo. Jack Lawrence and Dave Nunally on guitar, Jim Kerwin and Sam Bush on bass, and Hal Blaine on drums join the party.
Extensive liner notes by the fine jazz mandolin player Don Stiernberg and spirited Stax-Volt inspired graphics make a package that successfully foreshadows the eclectic yet erudite music within. As usual with Acoustic Disc CDs the sonics are first-rate throughout. Engineers Larry Cumings and Dave Dennison bring out the best from all the acoustic instruments used here, even the difficult ones to record like a National mandolin. I applaud their decision not to add artificial reverberation to enhance the warmth or space of the recording venue. The real sound of acoustic instruments recorded in natural way rules.
Several years ago David and Sam played together during a memorial service for Charles Sawtelle at the Boulder Theater. During their dual solos I couldn’t help but think “I sure would love to hear a whole CD of these two playing together.” Now my wish is a reality. As Charles Sawtelle would have said, “You need this CD.” Yup, you do.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.