Asheville bluegrass band joins Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale for concert at the Grey Eagle
The Asheville based group Town Mountain began their first year together in 2005 by winning first place in the prestigious Telluride, Colorado bluegrass band competition. Still together and going strong, their blend of progressive, traditional and original music has a distinctive, contemporary sound. The five piece band joins country/bluegrass/newgrass two-time Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale this weekend for a collaborative double bill at the Grey Eagle.
“The core of the band is Robert Greer on guitar and lead vocals, Phil Barker playing mandolin, Barrett Smith on bass, plus me on banjo,” said Town Mountain member Jesse Langlais. “We all sing. Bobby Britt from Chapel Hill is with us on fiddle. He’s a phenomenal fiddle player and he’s been with us for about 10 months now,” said Langlais. The band has used a few different fiddlers but this configuration’s clicked the last 10 months and they just recorded a new CD together with Grammy winning producer Mike Bubb, former bass player for the Del McCoury band. “He is a phenomenal musician and brought a lot of ideas to the table and we used them,” said Langlais. Recorded at Hill Creek Studios in Canton, N.C., for now it’s self released like their previous two recordings but the band is open to the idea of a label.
Town Mountain has a distinctive sound. “Our music kind of rides the line of progressive and traditional,” said Langlais. “If you listen to the music itself, it’s pretty traditional. We write a lot of our own material, and when you look at the songs and lyrics, you might lean more to the progressive sound so we are kind of able to ride that line and pull from all of those areas, whether it be Hank Williams and Bill Monroe or Newgrass Revival and Sam Bush,” said Langlais. Not being pinned in one category is important to the band. ”We might play Travis Tritt or the Band; we don’t just play traditional bluegrass. If you look on our iPods, there might be a lot more of other things than bluegrass. We listen to a lot of Steve Perry and Journey in the band,” Langlais said.
Original song writing is critical to the group. Like most bands, creative levels change continually. “It ebbs and flows, in the summertime it’s hard to write a lot,” said Langlais. “I gather ideas and then when fall and winter comes you get it on paper,” he said. Barker is the other primary songwriter in the group. Their combination of styles and songwriting drew them to Lauderdale. “We had booked that October 9 date a while back and wanted to include another person we really respected and looked up to. We were throwing names around and we kept coming back to Jim Lauderdale. He’s from North Carolina, he’s a phenomenal singer and songwriter, he kind of walks that line like we do, between traditional and progressive,” said Langlais. The group also saw the potential for a lot of fun backing up Lauderdale.
A song writing superstar, Lauderdale’s work has been recorded by Patty Loveless, George Jones, The Dixie Chicks, John Mayall, Kathy Mattea, Lee Ann Womack, Vince Gill, George Strait and many more. A Grand Ole Opry regular, he’s toured with Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Ralph Stanley, Rhonda Vincent and Elvis Costello, among others. A versatile choice for the evening, he’s as much at home with a jam band as a country music star.
“The show will start out with Jim solo, then Town Mountain will come in and do a set of new music, stuff from the album, then a short break, ” said Langlais. “We are going to come up with a set list and collaborate on a set together, back him up in the second half. We are really looking forward to that,” Langlais said. The musical content may range from Stanley Brothers tunes to original material with a lot of spontaneous interaction thrown in.
Town Mountain will arrive at the Grey Eagle fresh from hosting their showcase at I.B.M.A. (International Bluegrass Music Association). A spring CD release will mean even more national festivals and touring next year. “We’ve come this far and this is that year that we say, we are in this for a while,” said Langlais. “We are really close friends having a good time together. As long as it can stay that way I think the band will keep moving forward,” he said.