Hammertowne – a CD review

HammertowneWhat happens when a group of musicians get together?  They form a band, right? Well, quite often.

In the case of Scott Tackett (guitar), Brent Pack (banjo), Chaston Carroll (mandolin), Doug Burchett (bass) and Dave Carroll (guitar), they got together late in 2011 for a recording session; the session ended, but a band was formed …. hence Hammertowne.

The band’s debut, self-titled CD introduces them to a wider audience.

One of the strengths that is evident herein is the use of two equally talented lead vocalists.  In the first instance, Burchett’s lighter tones excel on the first two tracks, I’m Thinking You Don’t Love Me Anymore and Cherokee Maiden, and the mournful Ivor Johnson Is My Name and So Long And Goodbye, a song written by Brent Pack but one that sounds as though it was written and recorded in the early days of bluegrass music.

In contrast, is the slightly countrified voice of Scott Tackett, who steps up to the plate on Movin’, a slow, contemplative song; the old but not done-to-death Why Don’t You Tell Me So?; Emma; another reflective number Too Far Gone; and the Gospel classic I’ll Talk It All Over With Him. 

Another strength is the creative presence in their members of songwriter Dave Carroll, who had a hand in writing five of the songs on this 11 song collection. He penned the first two songs, albeit just adding lyrics to the Tommy Magness fiddle tune, the up-tempo This Old Martin Box – Carroll sings lead on this number that was a strong point on Blue Moon Rising’s On the Rise album. He also had a hand in writing Movin’ (with Ron King) and Ivor Johnson Is My Name (with Burchett and Tackett).  

Emma and Too Far Gone juxtaposes two compositions from up-and-coming songwriter Kyle Burnett; the former is more progressive with a neat guitar break, while the latter has guitar accompaniment only.

In different combinations to vary the blends, Doug Burchett, along with Dave and Chaston Carroll share the harmony vocal duties, and the trios are as tight as you would want.

A lot of thought has been put into the instrumental arrangements and Pack, Chaston and Dave Carroll all shine when asked to take the lead. Their creativity is well-founded on the back of a very dependable rhythm section.

Polished breaks and solid rhythm are very much in evidence on the last track, the instrumental Sourwood Mountain.

I hope that this excellent album takes Hammertowne on to bigger things and a good degree of longevity.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. 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.