Photographer: Buttface McGee
Photographer: Buttface McGee
Town Mountain features guitarist and vocalist Robert Greer, banjoist Jesse Langlais, mandolinist Phil Barker, fiddler Bobby Britt, and Zach Smith on bass. The band recently teamed up with producer Caleb Klauder at Asheville’s legendary Echo Mountain Studios to record their sixth studio album, set for release in Fall 2018. In addition to releasing a new album this year, they’ll be touring heavily throughout the year with dates at festivals like Joe Val Bluegrass Festival and John Hartford Memorial Festival; they’ll also be hosting MerleFest’s revered Midnight Jam with Jim Lauderdale.
Their last album, Southern Crescent, was released on April 1, 2016 via LoHi Records. Produced and engineered by GRAMMY winner Dirk Powell, Southern Crescent was recorded at The Cypress House, Powell’s personal studio located in the small, south-central Louisiana town of Breaux Bridge. The critically acclaimed album debuted at #4 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart while staying for ten weeks on the Americana Music Association’s radio chart Top 40. It was named one of Nashville roots radio station WMOT’s “Essential Americana Albums We Loved in 2016” with award-winning journalist and Music City Roots co-host Craig Havighurst adding, “This Asheville band killed it at the Ryman this summer opening up the bluegrass series. They put out this stellar collection of original songs that asserts them as the hippest, bluest traditional bluegrass band of their generation. In an era of bluegrass with manners, they cut with a serrated edge.” Since the release, the band made their debut at the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry, where they were invited back the following year.
Going strong for over a decade, Town Mountain’s musical journey began in 2007 with their debut album Original Bluegrass and Roots Country. The same year, they self-released Heroes & Heretics, featuring a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” with Greer’s distinctive Southern drawl on the forefront. The song has since gone viral, reaching over 3.5 million listens on Spotify; The Atlantic’s Matt Vasilogambros commented, “I keep turning to one cover, which I admittedly listen to more often than the original… it’s from Town Mountain. They dropped the synthesizer, added a banjo, a fiddle, and another singer for harmony, and made a gem.”
Other studio albums include Steady Operator (2011) and Leave The Bottle (2012), both released via Pinecastle Records. They also independently released a live album in 2014 from Asheville’s Isis Music Hall and a two-song EP (2015) of Grateful Dead tunes called The Dead Sessions. Leave The Bottle features “Lawdog” a Jimmy Martin-esque original penned by Barker in 2012. The Tennessean’s Juli Thanki dubbed the song an “unearthed classic”; the band recorded a live version of the song at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country Radio in 2013 which garnered almost 130,000 views on Youtube. The single continues to be a fan favorite, with fans often singing along as Barker sings, “I make my livin’ driving, I’m a bluegrass music man. Chasin’ the horizon, for another one night stand. I got a lot of miles to travel, and I’m runnin’ a little late. And a no show gets me nothin’, so don’t you get in my way. I got no time for ya lawdog.”
Although they’ve taken the road less traveled compared to both mainstream and traditional purists, Town Mountain continues to grow a loyal fanbase with their dedication to live performance. NPR-affiliate KSUT’s Chris Aaland describes them as, “One of those bands that has paid its dues and won over audiences through the years, much like The Gourds and Leftover Salmon.” Over the years, they have performed with Railroad Earth, Peter Rowan, Hard Working Americans, Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Hackensaw Boys, Ralph Stanley and his Clinch Mountain Boys, The Del McCoury Band, The Seldom Scene, The Infamous Stringdusters, Bobby Hicks, The Steep Canyon Rangers, and Jim Lauderdale, to name a few.
Even though Town Mountain’s roots lie in bluegrass, their music appeals to fans of multiple genres. “While it remains a bluegrass band in all things instrumentation and touring the bluegrass and festival circuit, it’s’ sound crosses into American roots and even outlaw country, perhaps as a result of the gritty, mournful tone of Greer’s vocals,” says KDUR DJ Bryant Liggett. “It is reminiscent of the 1970s truck-driving film sound, the perfect accompaniment to a car chase through the south á la ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’”
Sarah Bennett – email@example.com