It’s a pretty hefty undertaking for a bluegrass band – especially an independent group – to release one album per year. Bud’s Collective, a relatively new group based out of the northern Virginia/eastern West Virginia area, upped the ante for their debut release, putting out both a studio album and a live recording this past spring. The live album, LIVE! at Capon Crossing Farm – Bluegrass in the Barn, was recorded back in summer 2013 as part of the monthly concert series the group hosts at guitarist Buddy Dunlap’s in-laws’ farm in Wardensville, West Virginia. It introduces the group as purveyors of hard-driving modern traditional bluegrass, with a love of Tony Rice and a catalog of well-written original songs.
Dunlap, who also provides lead vocals for the group, wrote eight of the album’s thirteen songs. Among the best is Striking Man, a historical piece about a young man who becomes a “scab” worker in a Georgia factory when union workers go on strike. The song touches on a historical topic while also asking thoughtful questions about seizing opportunities when they’re presented, and is accompanied by dobro and banjo-heavy instrumentation from Gaven Largent (who is no longer with the band) and Gina Clowes, respectively. Opening track Walk Out in the Rain is another nicely written number that tells the story of a prisoner who doesn’t know what to do after he’s released. It’s an angrier, younger version of Blue Highway’s A Week from Today, with a pulsing, driving feel.
With the Other not Around is still driving, but has a lighter feel. It’s a story of lost love and heartbreak, with some clever turns of phrase, including the comparison of the singer to the empty dresser that’s left after the one he loves is gone. To Friend from Lover, co-written by Dunlap and Bobbi Needham, is another of the album’s highlights, with its confused narrator wondering how he ended up being demoted back to being just friends with the one he loves. It’s a sentiment many listeners have likely felt at one time or another, and Dunlap’s voice is filled with hurt as he sings that “sometimes love’s an action, not a feeling, and holding on to you means letting go.”
Most of the covers here have most famously been recorded by Tony Rice, and Dunlap introduces the first one by mentioning that guitar players can’t help but be fans of Rice. The group does an amped-up Cold on the Shoulder, anchored by some solid bass playing from Cody Brown, along with an enjoyable, if just a bit speeded-up, version of the Norman Blake composition Ginseng Sullivan. Dunlap’s guitar intro to Old Train is decidedly Rice-influenced, and it’s another solid cut, though again perhaps just a bit faster than most folks are used to.
The quality of this live recording is excellent, with the vocals and instruments coming through loud and clear despite some background noise from the crowd at times. Dunlap, his younger brother Jack (who plays mandolin), Brown, Clowes, and Largent have a tight sound that makes them one of the most promising young bands in bluegrass.