Cutting-Edge Bluegrass from Town Mountain

by delarue

Asheville, North Carolina’s Town Mountain are everything that’s good about bluegrass today. Their songs have the same kind of wry, aphoristic lyrics as the classics that obviously inspired them, but they’re completely in the here-and-now. On their latest album Leave the Bottle, they constantly leave you wanting more, considering that nobody plays a solo that goes on for more than a couple of bars before they hand it off to a bandmate.The songs are a mix of slow ballads and more upbeat material, with a couple of real barn-burners, played with fire and expertise by frontman Robert Greer on guitar, Phil Barker on mandolin, Jesse Langlais on banjo, Bobby Britt on fiddle and Jon Stickley on bass and guitar and produced with oldschool resonance by Nashville bass vet Mike Bub. They’re playing Zirzamin on Feb 17 at 8:30 after the Sunday Salon and then a 7 PM set by Coney Island gothic songstress Carol Lipnik with her intense pianist Matt Kanelos. If country music is your thing and you’re in New York, this is a show not to miss.

The album’s opening track is a killer kiss-off to a woman who goes off with a younger guy: “I grow more distinguished, you grow old and grey…a man of my experience is every gal’s delight,” Greer sings with more than a little satisfaction. As on many of the tracks, Langlais unleashes a rich, rippling river of banjo, spiced by an all-too-brief Britt fiddle break.

The title cut features some neat tempo shifts and solos pretty much all around: it’s a pensive reflection on killing time (with shotglass in hand) before reconnecting with a girl who’s somewhere else. The wry workingman’s complaint Up the Ladder takes a surprisingly effective shot at building a bluegrass song on a Chuck Berry riff, while Lawdog snarls at the po-po who make life miserable for bands up and down the bluegrass highway.

Loaded, a slow ballad, manages to be both a funny drinking song and serious at the same time – and that banjo again, damn, this guy is good! They follow that with a scampering, unexpectedly Acadian-tinged instrumental that reminds of the Punch Brothers in a particularly focused moment.

The doomed runaway ballad Away from Home evokes the Louvin Brothers in their creepiest storytelling moments; after that, the band picks up the pace with the briskly shuffling, bristling You Weighed Heavy on My Heart and then the resilient Heavy Stone. There’s also the rapidfire moonshiner anthem Run Junior Run, the sprightly Greenbud on the Flower (no, it’s not about what you’re thinking) and the jaunty come-on tune Don’t Go Home Tonight.