The Bush League – Here We Are…again
13 songs, 53 minutes
Electric musicians putting together acoustic concept albums has a long tradition, even before the birth of “Unplugged” in the 90’s. Muddy Waters set the Blues standard in 1964 with his essential Folk Singer. Richmond Virginia’s The Bush League’s 3rd full length album Here We Are…again is an entry into this oeuvre. The Bush League put down their high energy brand of electric Hill Country Blues by way of 90’s R&B/Rock and offer laid back takes on many well worn workhouses with an intermission of a few unique originals.
Centered around singer JohnJason Cecil and bass thumper Royce Folks, The Bush League has been building a unique sound in the Southern US with a cast of support musicians since 2007. Bringing back into the fold guitarist Shane Parch from an earlier incarnation of the band, The Bush League operate as a drum-less trio on this record. Some additional support is offered here and there on harmonica, vocals and percussion from Vince Johnson, Daniel “Mojo” Parker and Jlynn Holland-Cecil. But, this record is all about the interplay of the 3 primary Bush leaguers. Folks’ strong, percussive bass playing anchors the music and propels the flights of fancy that Blues shouter Cecil croons out with a smooth R&B voice. An engaging and confident singer JohnJason Cecil is a revelation on this album. The adept acoustic picking of Parch, instead of the heavy electric guitar on former outings, allows Cecil’s voice the air to fully bloom through the speakers. Additionally the laid back nature of the arrangements and the general medium tempo take on the music give Cecil the room to really extemporize. It is why war-torn songs like “You Got to Move”, “Trouble in Mind,” and “I Feel Like Going Home” work; Cecil is able to squeeze every last drop of meaning and emotion out of the lyrics.
Two high points of unique performance melded with material are the League’s take on the Junior Kimbrough classic “Done Got Old” and the original “M.I.L.F.” Taking the open majesty of Kimbrough’s original recording of “Done Got Old,” Parch and Folks take the song at more of a shuffling drive. Cecil singing in a flatter dynamic than in other places, flips the sentiment of the song and thumbs his nose at the idea that the song’s “old man” can’t do the things he used to do. The funky original “M.I.L.F” is a lascivious come on in graphic description to “mama’s friend” who used to “change my dirty drawers.” Starting with the sound of laughter and lighting some kind of smoking material, this song is fun and brings the listener into the Bush League’s locker room for bro time.
The Bush League have done a great job through their career so far blending legit Blues, modern R&B and a hard driven Rock edge. Their 2012 record Can of Gas & a Match and their 2018 Parch-less more produced offering James Rivah are eclectic and raw while also being consistent and fully formed. The secret is the incorporation of creative and often clever originals. On this acoustic Blues cover record the 2 very beautiful soulful originals “Heaven” and “Lazy Sunday Afternoon” sequenced back to back in the middle of the record sound a little out of place. These are exceptional tunes and performed with emotions and depth, they just don’t have the impact that songs like these had on earlier records.
The Bush League is an excellent modern Blues band. Authentic in spirit and working within the form of the Blues, these talented individual artists push the form forward. Here We Are…again is a fun stripping down of this band’s aesthetic, a window into their influences and process. This album wets the appetite for the next full on record and makes the listener excited for their next live performance.