MERCED — A favorite of the downtown Merced independent music scene, Reno-based band Buster Blue held an album release party and played a set for an adoring crowd of about 60 at The Partisan last Saturday night.
The band's style, while difficult to categorize, contains elements of folk, bluegrass, and pop. According to their website, www.busterblue.com, "The music and lyrics paint poetry of a mythic America where every open field is a place for adventure and heartbreak."
The band consists of six childhood friends who mostly grew up in Gardnerville, Nev.: Moses Jones, Andrew Martin, Rachael McElhiney, Brendon Lund and newest members Billy Dohr and Fil Corbitt.
The young band makes use of a broad array of instrumentation, including guitar, banjo, drums, accordion, clarinet, saxophone and even a chain and bucket.
Corbitt, 23, played drums for the band during shows at home and joined full-time on the road after graduating from college. He spoke about their new album, "Sleep Less Where the Heart Is," which was recorded in the basement of bassist Brendon Lund's house earlier this year.
"Compared to 'When the Silver is Gone,' the last full-length, it's a lot slower it's a lot more developed I think than the last ones. There's no full drum set on this album," said Corbitt. "It's just like a different branch of Buster Blue, I think."
Corbitt's doing a podcast from the road called "The Vansounds," which can be accessed on iTunes, Soundcloud and Facebook.
Corbitt doesn't play on the new release, though. Another new band member and former tour manager Billy Dohr plays percussion on the album. According to Corbitt, when former drummer Jay Escamillo left the band, Dohr started learning drums.
"Everybody in the band plays every instrument. Billy plays guitar sometimes. I play banjo sometimes. I play guitar. I play melodica, accordion. When I take over on drums, Billy gets up and plays something else. We're constantly swapping instruments," said Corbitt about the band's versatility.
"We're really excited to be back in Merced. It's our second hometown," Corbitt replied when asked about the intimacy the band has with the town. That relationship started when Partisan owner RC Essig and his band, El Olio Wolof, played a show in Reno that Buster Blue helped set up. Essig invited Buster Blue to play in Merced, a place they weren't familiar with and they have been coming back ever since.
According to lead singer Moses Jones, Buster Blue has played Merced about seven or eight times in recent years. The band's currently planning a tour through California in October, and will come back to Merced at that time, according to Corbitt.
Despite getting a nod in Billboard Magazine and an Independent Music Award Nomination, Corbitt's answer to the possibility of signing with a label was simple: "We really like being independent."
"We do everything at this point, by ourselves; put out all our own records and do our own work," Corbitt explained. "We're responsible for all the music, all of the merch, all of the shows ... We're the people we have to answer to."
Chris Winterfeldt can be reached at email@example.com.