National Media Services has released its annual Christmas album for 2015. Each Fall, the company chooses one of their loyal customers to record a special holiday record, which NMS uses in its own Christmas gift packages for clients, and also allows the band to market to their fan base.
This year, the honor goes to Bud’s Collective, who have used the opportunity to create their third – that’s right, third – album to hit this year. Called Naughty List, it contains nine new tracks combining traditional Christmas songs with ones written within the band.
After a banjo and mandolin driven version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, nicely capturing both the sense of longing in the Hebrew prophecy and the expectations of its Christian fulfillment, the project veers away from religious music for the remainder of the disc.
Guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter Buddy Dunlap contributes several clever songs that touch of different aspects of the holiday season. The title track is a bluesy number which exposes the little known fact that “Santa gets his coal from West Virginia,” which the singer discovered when he encountered St. Nick down in the mine. Special kudos to mandolinist Jack Dunlap for his impressive downstroke solos on this one.
Jack takes to an electric mandolin for the kickoff to Up On The Housetop, given a fun, swingy treatment by the Collective. Daddy’s Christmas Tree gets a straight bluegrass feel, a fine new song about following, Dad into the woods each winter to select a tree, while Mrs. Claws is another blues about a poor fellow who is snowed in before making Christmas preparations for his wife. It doesn’t end well for him, but all the pickers get their licks in.
An instrumental version of Christmas Day In The Morning follows with a stately Celtic approach, and a brilliant banjo solo from Gina Clowes, who is featured as lead vocalist on Jospeh’s Song, her original contribution to the album. It’s a thoughtful meditation on the participation of one of the less celebrated members of the Nativity story.
Buddy’s New Year’s Game is more of a country swing song, a la Brad Paisley or George Strait, about a guy who finds himself trapped by his devious girlfriend in a game of New Year’s resolutions, though he comes out on top in the end.
The proceedings draw to a close with a rip-roaring grasser, Figgy Pudding, an amusing rant about the disagreeable nature of this one particular dessert.
All in all, Naughty List is a pleasant holiday diversion from the sacred songs without going all the way over to the profane. Great fun for fans of bluegrass music with an eye for satire.