A quartet originally from West Virginia, Bud’s Collective delivers an uneven, eponymous album full of both high and low points. Formed in 2012, the young group has experienced some success. They placed second at SPBGMA in 2013 and won the D.C. Bluegrass Union’s Mid-Atlantic Band Competition. The band also hosts a successful concert series in the panhandle of eastern West Virginia.
The best features of Bud’s Collective include seven often clever original songs, all but one by guitarist and vocalist Buddy Dunlap. The lead off track, “The First,” demonstrates the band at its best presenting a modern take on a classic bluegrass heartbreak theme. The album also serves up, at least on the faster songs, crisp and energetic instrumental playing, particularly from mandolinist and composer of the remaining original song, Jack Dunlap, and banjo player Gina Clowes. They find support with strong rhythm work from Buddy on guitar and bassman Cody Brown.
The less successful material may well be the result of inexperience in the studio. In fact, they simultaneously released a live album. The group often doesn’t shine as much on the slower tunes and especially struggles with the right feeling on the cover songs. While the self-penned titles demonstrate the necessary emotion, the covers prove an exercise in what the late Hazel Dicken’s called “singing through a song.” Mel Tillis’ “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” offers the most egregious example. Reaching number six on the Billboard pop charts in 1969 for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, it is a wrenching Vietnam-era first-person tale of a paraplegic veteran with an unfaithful wife. Bud’s Collective’s flat reading makes it sound more like, “Ruby, pick up some eggs and bacon when you go to town.” While Buddy Dunlap has an excellent voice, too many of the cuts on Bud’s Collective feature him singing solo lead. That said, the band possesses a lot of talent and promise which likely will result in strong releases on down the line. (Bud’s Collective, 669 Dick’s Hollow Rd., Winchester, VA 22603, www.budscollective.com.)AM