Fans of traditional bluegrass had good reason for optimism before the sound check was concluded for the Tuesday evening showcase featuring Town Mountain. The setup featured a single condenser microphone at mid-stage, hinting at the old-style performance to follow. The group did not disappoint, taking the stage attired in open-collar suits and wowing the audience with song-after-solid-bluegrass-song.
Guitarist Robert Greer assumed the majority of the lead vocal duties, backed up by the tight harmonies reminiscent of bands from the past. Phil Barker excelled on the Mandolin, taking the lead vocals on a few of his own well-crafted compositions like the Civil-War tribute Tarheel Boys. Banjo phenom Jesse Langlais showcased his own songcrafting skills with the performance of Hope Shadows Fear, and the dark and mysterious, Midnight Road.
Greer later performed another Langlais song, Come Break My Heart. His voice was slightly gravelly, which he attributed to the excitement, and excessive picking, of the prior evening. Bobby Britt was masterful on the fiddle, demonstrating tastefulness and speed with perfect intonation. Jon Stickley rounded out the ensemble on the upright bass, laying aside his favored guitar to hold down the low-end for the group, who closed the set with toe-tapper Sparkle City.
The group’s latest recording project, entitled Steady Operator, was produced by none other than Grammy-winning Mike Bub.
“I really believe in these guys,” Bub stated. “In the world of traditional bluegrass, there’s only so many ways to reinvent the wheel. I’m proud of the way these guys keep it fresh while sticking to traditional bluegrass.”
Bub’s love of traditional bluegrass doesn’t exclude innovation, however. He espoused a belief in the “Big Tent” philosophy, stating that “sometimes non-traditional groups generate revenue that allows a venue to keep traditional acts coming.”
With the assistance of people like Mike Bub, Town Mountain will carry on the tradition and continue to be a class act.