Folk band Buster Blue returns to Nevada roots
American folk band Buster Blue is back on home turf with a series of shows in the Carson-Tahoe area, including a gig from 8-11 p.m. Friday at Plan:b Micro-Lounge in Carson City.
All six members performed with the Douglas High School band at one time or another over the last decade.
Andy Martin, who graduated in 2007, is the youngest of the group, which ranges in age from 22 to 28 years old.
“We were all in the marching band and know Mr. (Bill) Zabelsky,” he said, referring to the Douglas High music director.
The band has been playing together for 3-4 years, with a few different individuals before settling in with Bryan Jones, Rachael McElhiney, Jay Escamillo, Jason Ricketts, Brendon Lund, as well as Martin.
The group’s influences are mostly folk and Americana, including Tom Waits, and groups like Arcade Fire, Wilco, Radiohead and the Abed Brothers. However, Buster Blue pulls from a range of influences including thrash and western swing.
Describing their sound is the “hardest question,” Martin said.
“We tell people we play mainly folk-Americana-roots music. But there isn’t any Americana roots music from Nevada. …
“We live (mostly) in Reno, which is kind of a hodge-podge of different ideas and cultures put together,” which influences the sound of Buster Blue.
The band’s Facebook page puts it this way: “Buster Blue has found a place inhabited only by their own off-kilter creation.”
The group is touring in support of its second album, “When the Silver’s Gone,” which was recorded inside Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City. Its first album, “This Beard Grows for Freedom,” was released in February 2009.
“The touring’s been going great,” Martin said, adding that they have a handful of new songs they’re performing. “We’ve got a van and a trailer going up the West Coast from L.A. to Seattle and to Phoenix. We’ve played anything from small bar to a venue in Portland.”
In addition to studying music at the University of Nevada, Reno, Martin said he’s substitute teaching and giving guitar lessons.
Martin said the members of Buster Blue use a lot of different of instruments. Besides piano and trombone, they play accordion, banjo, guitar, bass, tenor sax, baritone sax, clarinet and bass clarinet, ukulele, drums and percussion instruments including chains.
“We got to use the chains used on the last Johnny Cash album, ‘Ain’t No Chains,'” said member and 2005 Douglas graduate Bryan Jones. “We got them from Rick Rubin who was the producer. He knew I would freak out when I heard they were Cash’s chains. But they were just borrowed. We had to give them back.”
A lot of the CD was recorded live in Piper’s, where Jones said he got tips on how to mic his banjo from Scott Avett, and the band worked with producers Zak Girdis and Kevin Bosley at Rubin’s Hollywood recording studio.
“We can all play so many instruments, and can go in so many different directions. You’re always searching for the right way to play a song,” said Jones. “Having an outside ear is really good for us. The producers were there to really push us.”
Buster Blue is also scheduled for shows at 9 p.m. tonight at The Alley on Victorian Square in Sparks; 1-4 p.m. March 26 at Homewood Ski Resort’s North Lodge sundeck; and 5:30 p.m. April 19 at CVIC Hall in Minden – which will be the first time Buster Blue has played in their home town.
Plan:b Micro-Lounge is located at 318 N. Carson St. For more information, call 775-887-8879.
• The Record-Courier also contributed to this story.