Hammertowne is a five man group that originates in the “cradle of bluegrass music” in the eastern Kentucky foothills.
While relatively new as a unit, this is a well-seasoned and talented group of performers who can lay claim to performing with some of the finest talent in bluegrass music throughout their careers. Band members are Dave Carroll (guitar and vocals), Scott Tackett (guitar and vocals), Brent Pack (banjo), Dave’s 18 year old son Chaston Carroll (mandolin and vocals) and Doug Burchett (bass and vocals).
The inaugural collection features original band songs, two originals by the talented young songwriter Kyle Burnett and three traditional songs.
From its inception in Spring 2012, the group’s identity has been defined by a hard-driving style of bluegrass that combines unique instrumentation with a distinctive knack for weaving good vocal harmonies. Hammertowne creates their hard driving sound with one foot in the traditional arena to honour those who paved the way before them, and the other in the progressive arena as reflected in their many original songs they write and perform.
In most cases much forethought, planning and, sometimes, recruiting goes into forming a musical unit, but that is not the case for Hammertowne. This group of musicians gathered in a studio as session players on a solo effort and something special transpired. After the stop button had been hit on the first take of the first song, several seconds of complete silence filled the room, until finally from the control room came…”WOW!” The energy and musical compatibility was so strong that the musicians decided they wanted to continue. Thus, Hammertowne was born. With this group of musicians, it is simply about the music and having more fun on stage than should be legal. Their love of playing and entertaining emanates from the stage as well as the studio.
One of bluegrass music’s most prolific songwriters, Larry Cordle says of the band…
“Upon hearing Hammertowne for the first time I thought holy cow! These guys ain’t kiddin’ around….sometimes a combination comes together and something magical happens when they render together…that is what is happening here. The sky’s the limit for these boys…it’s fresh and new… but fits like your favorite old shoes. These boys can hammer down.”
Dave Carroll shares a track-by-track over-view …..
“Track 1 is a tune called I’m Thinking You Don’t Love Me Anymore that I wrote. It’s kind of a classic love gone wrong type song with a sort of progressive but not complicated melody. I had actually recorded it earlier with my previous band, New River Line, but when I heard Doug (Burchett), who is our bassist and one of our wonderful vocalists tinkering with it in a higher key than I could ever sing it, I felt like new life was breathed into the song.
Track 2 is to me, one of the coolest things I’ve written. It’s called Cherokee Maiden and in essence, what I did was take an old 1930’s fiddle melody and write words to it. It’s a happy, bouncy, make you want to dance type of love song about an ole boy who’s in love with a Cherokee girl, and his longing to get back to see her and live happily ever after. I got the idea to write that a couple years back; it finally came out.
Track 3 is a slow ballad called Movin’ which I co-wrote with a former band-mate and good friend Ron King several years back, and again, it was previously cut by New River Line on that band’s debut album in 2004. It’s kind of a brief synopsis of a journey of a man’s life, touching three monumental events in his life in three verses, divorce, his retirement after 30 years and finally his death. It has remained one of my most requested songs throughout the years, and again, a new vocal just gave it new life. Scott (Tackett) another one of our stellar vocalist, did a fantastic rendition of the song.
Track 4 This Old Martin Box is a guitar song that I wrote several years ago, and is kinda credited by some to have put the band Blue Moon Rising on the map, so to speak. They had much success with it on their On the Rise album several years ago. The fellows in the band (Hammertowne) have always been big fans of the song, and really wanted to include it, so we did it.
Track 5 Iver Johnson is my Name is the most personal song on the record for me, because there’s a real story behind it. Many years ago, when I was just a small child, there was a killing that occurred where I’m from, and it involved a close member of my family. The weapon used, was a 16-gauge, 30-inch full choke, single shot, shotgun; it was my grandfather’s gun. (I still have it). Scott and Doug were both intrigued by this, and I’d commented that I’d always thought about writing a song about it (a former band-mate Chad Gilbert had always ridden me about doing that). So finally one evening, the three of us got together to have a little writing session and this tune came floating to the top….quickly. And one of the most interesting things about the song is that it is written from the gun’s perspective. Kinda if the gun could talk, type thing. Because the actual event that I mentioned earlier hits so close to home, lots of kin that were and still are effected by what happened, we kept the song pretty obscure, not really referencing any particular happening, but still specific enough to tell a story.
Track 6 is an old traditional number Why Don’t You Tell me So, and it was pretty much Brent’s idea to cut it. We knew that although we could have written enough songs to fill up the album, we wanted to include a few favorite, but not beat-to-death original songs. This has always been one of my favorites as well, and our take on it is a little different than say [Tony] Rice’s cover of it, as in we do it out of a G position key, that just allows the banjo to dictate the dynamics of the song a little differently.
Track 7 is a tune that Brent wrote So Long and Goodbye. I’ll bet there will be a number of people asking each other when they hear it ‘Who did that originally? Was it Lester and Earl, Monroe, Hylo maybe?’ It’s that kind of old sounding, straight ahead hard core grass song. Brent’s just starting to write, and he has a ton of potential. This is one of my favorites on the record.
Tracks 8 and 9 were both written by a good friend of ours by the name of Kyle Burnett. Kyle is from Missouri originally and came up here to go to school. Kyle is making quite a name for himself as a writer and his stuff is really starting to get out. Track 8 is a song called Emma, and it’s one of the more progressive sounding songs on the record. It’s up-tempo, tells a great story about one’s love for a woman, starting at a very young age. Great tune.
Track 9 is a song titled Too Far Gone. It’s one of those songs that doesn’t need much else but singing to make its point, so that’s nearly what we did. It’s just guitar and vocals, and may I say, that Scott sang his rear off on this one. I mean this thing was right in his wheelhouse. It’s a story song about an old gentlemen recollecting his years, and it’s up to the listener to separate fact from fiction. Just a killer song.
Track 10 is a Gospel number, one that was always a favorite of mine, Talk it All Over with Him. This one was my idea and the boys went right along with it as another opportunity to work in one of those bedrock traditional songs. I love the way it turned out.
The final track (11) we pulled out an old traditional fiddle tune Sourwood Mountain. It’s just a bouncy, happy, sounding old tune that Brent and Chaz really wanted to take a crack at, so we did it.”
For more information on Hammertowne and their self-titled debut, please visit the Mountain Fever Records web site.
A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.
He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.
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