Town Mountain: Jump on board or get the hell outta the way

by DGO Web Administrator

Bands don’t typically place a 59-second song as the opener on an album. Record executives and other suits in Nashville would also probably discourage it, and it may even scare off some fans. “St. Augustine” is a 59-second, fiddle-driven blaze of a cut, a smack-in-the-mouth of an introduction. That’s Town Mountain, an honest, straight-to-the-point band that comes at you at an unapologetic full speed. It’s their personal invite for the listener to jump on board or get the hell out of the way.

Further listening reveals “Southern Crescent,” as a dissection of string music, a cross examination of the history of rural American music that has existed up and down the Eastern Seaboard and Appalachia, a mix of old time, country and early Cajun music all falling under the bluegrass umbrella of craft musicianship and raw lyrical emotion.

The Asheville, North Carolina, band will be in town Friday touring in support of “Southern Crescent,” and helping local radio KSUT celebrate 40 years of broadcast at the Henry Strater Theatre.

The recording of “Southern Crescent” took the band to Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, and into the studios of musician and producer Dirk Powell. Powell was the perfect person to bring out the influences of the band and fuse the rich music history of the area with their own rowdy sound.

“His idea of what music is and how it should be played is very similar to how we think in Town Mountain. We have a lot of friends in that neck of the woods, and we really respect a lot of that music; the Cajun stuff, the old time scene, the Louisiana country scene,” said banjo player Jesse Langlais in a recent interview. “That’s dance music, and Town Mountain tries to infuse as much of that into our music as possible. We want people to dance and interact with the music on that level. Too many times bluegrass music is for a sit-down audience, and we try to take away that idea. A lot of material we ended up recording has that Town Mountain signature boogie-woogie thing we do, some is straight-up honky-tonk music, and some of it’s bluegrass. It all made sense to take those tunes down to Dirk to record.”

Town Mountain has always bucked some of the normal trends and conventions of bluegrass, and certainly has carried a looser vibe than some of the more conservative in the genre. There’s an outlaw country ideology among a laid-back, rock ’n’ roll feel; it’s tough to pigeon-hole in a genre that has too many sub-genres made up by fans in need of some form of identification.

“This whole country sound is unique to us. Jimmy Martin had that. The Osborne brother had some of it, they had that country aspect to their brand of bluegrass, and that certainly plays into what our sound is,” Langlais said. “Maybe it’s kind of hard to label Town Mountain, and I think that’s a great thing.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected].

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