Hearing Aide: Town Mountain’s ‘Southern Crescent’

Town’s Mountain’s soon to be released album Southern Crescent can be characterized as straight up bluegrass, with a classic rock twist and a dash of zydeco mixed in for good measure. The fact that this band is based out of Asheville, North Carolina – a particularly nurturing place for musicians – really comes through in Town Mountain’s music, as they seem as if they are totally comfortable in their skin. Town Mountain is comprised of Robert Greer on vocals and guitar, Jesse Langlais on banjo and vocals, Bobby Britt on fiddle, Phil Barker on mandolin and vocals, and Nick DiSebastian on bass. These guys are no joke: in 2013, Town Mountain was the recipient of two International Bluegrass Music Awards Momentum Awards, including Band of the Year and Vocalist of the Year for lead singer Robert Greer. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see these guys at an upcoming bluegrass festival like Grey Fox or Delfest, as they have got something special.

Recorded in old-time music great Dirk Powell’s Cypress House Studio in Beaux Bridge, Louisiana, in the heart of the bayou, the swampy, twangy, old-timey sound truly comes through on Town Mountain’s fifth album. Huddled around microphones recording their unplugged instruments, with minimal editing, gave this album an almost live quality, giving the listener the feeling of almost being there at one of Town Mountain’s concerts.

Let’s face it: on any given album, there is typically one song you might think is a bit of a dud, but it is not a lie to say that all the songs on this album are winners. Southern Crescent kicks things off with “St. Augustine,” a one-minute instrumental traditional bluegrass ditty, setting the tone for what’s to come, which is something magical. Although many of the songs sound familiar, like they could be a traditional bluegrass cover, band members Jesse Langlais and Phil Barker, in collaboration with the other band members of course, write the majority of the band’s songs. Many of the lyrics deal with common country/bluegrass themes, such as traveling, hard living, love lost, and gambling, but Town Mountain puts their own twist on things, often adding witty words or chord changes to throw things a bit off what the listener is expecting.

It becomes evident that these guys are truly dedicated musicians who must spend hours practicing together on a regular basis, especially on songs such as “Ain’t Gonna Worry Me,” which features both flawless falsetto vocals by lead vocalist Greer, and excellent harmonies by Langlais, Barker, and DiSebastian, as well tricky time signature changes, which the band made seem easy. “Comin’ Back to You” introduces a more classic rock side of the band, featuring a nice surprising piano solo, while “Leroy’s Reel” takes the listener on a more international journey, sounding alternately Irish, French, and Russian. Throughout the entire album, though, the band stays true to their bluegrass roots, giving equal opportunities for each band member to step forward and take a solo on each and every tune.

Due out on April 1, Southern Crescent is a must-have for any bluegrass aficionado, although with its inclusion of classic rock and zydeco influences, the appeal of this album goes well beyond just bluegrass fans. The live quality of the recording, added to the danceability of the tunes, will most likely entice you to want to see them perform live, so be sure to check out their website for numerous upcoming tour dates, including a stop in Manhattan at the Hill Country BBQ on April 8. Be sure to check them out if you’re in town, and while you’re at it, pick up a copy of Southern Crescent! You won’t be anything short of amazed.

Key Tracks: Comin’ Back to You, Wildbird, Tick on a Dog

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