What: Sam Bush, with Honey Don’t

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend

Cost: $25, $35 or $45, plus fees

Contact: towertheatre.org or 541-317-0700

Give Sam Bush a call, and if you get his answering machine, you’ll be greeted by a pretty spot-on impression of Major League Baseball sportscaster Harry Caray.

Of course, this could happen even if Bush picks up the phone. At least it did when Bush finally answered for a recent interview with GO! Magazine after being delayed by a dentist appointment that ran late. It was only when the Caray voice started ranting about Bend that it became clear that Bush was actually on the line this time.

“My Harry is the one before his stroke,” Bush said, after a long laugh. “Will Ferrell’s is like definitely after the stroke. … Mine’s just like seven beers into the seventh inning, that’s where mine’s at.”

It wasn’t the last time Bush cracked up during the half-hour conversation. The singer-songwriter, mandolin virtuoso and “father of newgrass” was set to head out on a West Coast tour the next day with his longtime band — drummer Chris Brown, guitarist Stephen “Mojo” Mougin, banjoist Scott Vestal and bassist Todd Parks — including his first-ever performance at the Tower Theatre on Thursday.

That might be surprising considering Central Oregon’s near-obsession with newgrass. More modern bands such as Greensky Bluegrass, Fruition, World’s Finest and Brothers Comatose have all performed in Bend, many on multiple occasions, and old bluegrass and newgrass standbys such as Del McCoury also play here regularly. (Not to mention, many of these artists have collaborated with Bush in some form.)

It’s even more surprising considering Bush has ties to Oregon — his sister lives in Eugene (“She taught me when saying the word ‘Eugene,’ don’t say ‘Yoo-gene’ like we’re (in) the South,” he quipped) and his niece is in Portland.

He came close in the early ’80s with his long-running group New Grass Revival, widely regarded as the catalyst for the hybrid genre that bears its name. The band was trying to make it back to Nashville after the last show on its tour when the van skidded out on a snowy road just outside the city, damaging two wheel rims on the driver’s side.

“As fate would have it, the truck stop we were towed to — we got it there I guess, somehow — the truck stop we made it to happened to have a couple of rims that would fit our van,” Bush said, laughing again. “And the guy who put them on for us told us he was a member of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers; he said he was one of the original Teenagers. … We said, ‘What’s your name?’ He goes, ‘It doesn’t matter.’”

This energy extends to Bush’s live performances fronting his own band or sitting in with other artists at festivals, as longtime fans of his five-decade-plus career can attest. The band has been focusing on material from last year’s “Storyman,” a collection of songs co-written with other artists, including Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris, that in typical fashion exists somewhere at the crossroads of rock ’n’ roll, bluegrass, jazz and country.

As its title suggests, Bush’s first studio set in nearly seven years focuses on often deeply personal stories. The nostalgic “Bowling Green,” co-written with Jon Randall Stewart, looks back on Bush’s childhood in the Kentucky town, where he would catch Nashville TV shows featuring artists such as Bill Monroe and The Osborne Brothers. Then there’s one of Bush’s favorite tracks, “Transcendental Meditation Blues,” co-written with frequent collaborator Jeff Black, in which he sings about an excruciating Greyhound bus ride to visit then-girlfriend (and now wife of 31 years) Lynn.

“Let me just right off the bat say, co-writing is where I could achieve this,” Bush said. “And I come up with phrases, but I really thrive on people who are great lyrics writers: Jeff Black, John Pennell. It was just — it’s hard to explain, other than it was just kind of time to do this. Plus I just got on a roll of co-writing with friends.”

One of those friends, Clark, helped get the ball rolling with the Jimmie Rodgers-inspired “Carcinoma Blues.” The song, which deals with both songwriters’ battles with cancer, was written around the same time as another co-write with Clark, “The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle,” which appeared on Bush’s 2009 album “Circles Around Me.”

Clark died of cancer about a month before “Storyman” released.

“I saw him in the hospital, and I told him, ‘Guy, I put our song on the record; it might make some people cringe,’” Bush said. “And somehow, Guy looks up with an impish grin and he sort of made a two-syllable word out of the word ‘tough’ — he kind of went, ‘Tu-uff.’”

The lighthearted Bush shows up too on “Handmics Killed Country Music,” which takes a gentle jab at the phenomenon of country singers ditching guitars for hand-held microphones in the ’60s. Co-written by Emmylou Harris, it’s the first country shuffle Bush has recorded, and features pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins.

“I talked to a few different people about writing it together, and nobody really wanted to till I talked to Emmylou Harris about it; Emmy looked at me and she went, ‘Oh, yeah!’” Bush said.

“And we realized that — when you see on TV, like, oh, what do you call it, Time Life ads for old country-music shows or old rock shows or what have you — that we’d just stare at the guitars. We’d look at those — what kind of guitar is everybody playing?”

At the same time Bush was watching bluegrass and country players on Nashville TV, he also caught The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Broadway show tunes on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He began playing mandolin at age 11, drawing on all these influences. The New Grass Revival would also take liberally from rock, country and other genres, to the chagrin of some bluegrass purists.

“I think music might have been more mixed up within (that time),” Bush said. “Patsy Cline, for instance, her records today sound like pop records, but they were in the pop field and country field. When I was growing up, I was a sponge for everything, but I think in general we were exposed to a little more variety in music than now. People are more aware of genres, I think, but that’s the good part about playing acoustic music and Americana and newgrass. It’s a graceful way to age, I think. I hope.”

Bush is happy to see his exploratory spirit continuing in today’s newgrass-dominated musical landscape.

“When I mentioned Yonder (Mountain String Band) or Fruition — people have their own sound, and that’s rockin’,” he said. “That’s the good thing about it. We’re getting groups that are off-spins of bluegrass that have their own sound, and that’s the most interesting part of music for me.”

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