Interview by Scott Preston
Town Mountain with special guest Will Kimble String Band
Friday, June 6, 2013
The Crow’s Nest, 4544 W 8th St, Cincinnati, OH
Will Kimble at 9pm, Town Mountain at 10pm
Based in Asheville, NC, Town Mountain is Phil Barker on mandolin and vocals, Robert Greer on lead vocals and guitar guitar, Jesse Langlais on banjo and vocals, Bobby Britt on fiddle, and newest member Jake Hopping rounds them out with his rock-solid bass. One listen to their instantly memorable songs, and it’s plain to see why Grammy-winner Mike Bub would align with the group to produce Leave the Bottle as well as 2011’s Steady Operator.
“I’m not sure what the definition of bluegrass would be in words alone, but if that definition was set to music, it would probably sound something like Town Mountain’s Leave the Bottle… I could go on,” says Bluegrass Today’s David Morris, “There are no duds, and no filler songs on this project. But you get the point. This, my friends, is how bluegrass is supposed to sound.”
Leave the Bottle effortlessly covers a wide array of styles in the stringband spectrum featuring the stellar in-house songwriting that has become the band’s trademark. There’s the barroom swagger and honky tonk edge of tracks like “Up the Ladder” and the title track “Leave the Bottle”, the Jimmy Martin style bounce and confidence of “Lawdog” and “Lookin’ in the Mirror”, the Irish flavor of Bobby Britt’s “Four Miles”, and the laid back John Hartford style groove of “Greenbud on the Flower” among others. But no matter the style, the band’s delivery gives every tune a true and honest feel.
Cincy Groove: I see that Town Mountain performed at The John Hartford Festival last weekend, how did it go?
Bobby Britt: It was incredible. You can really feel the history and folklore of the place. Our 2 sets were really special. There is just something in the air there that makes it a special experience.
Cincy Groove: Have you had a chance to meet or play with any of your idols?
Bobby Britt: Definitely, especially this past weekend at the John Hartford Festival. I have a lot of idols, but one in particular I was able to perform with was Larry Keel. I also performed the late night encore which was Ramble On Rose with Larry and Jeff Austin from Yonder Mountain String Band. Robert Greer from Town Mountain and Vince Herman was also up on stage.
Cincy Groove: I know your current release just came out in Sept of last year, but are you guys working on any new material?
Bobby Britt: Well we are on the road a lot, I think in this leg of the tour we are playing 8-9 shows in 9 days. We continue to try to write new material in the day while we are traveling. We are working on songs for a new album, but we haven’t set any kind of release date.
Cincy Groove: Something else I found interesting is the “Town Mountain Cover Series”, why did you guys decide to start that?
Bobby Britt: We started it because of the overwhelmingly positive response we have had to that one Springsteen cover “I’m On Fire” that we have been doing for a while now. Its just as powerful now as it was the first time we played it. So we decided to try and find some other songs that would be just as powerful and give them our own bluegrass spin to them. In this band we definitely have a lot of different opinions on what to cover. It is difficult to pick a song that is catchy but hasn’t been overdone.
Cincy Groove: Do you have any personal favorites as your choice for the next cover?
Bobby Britt: We have covered Brokedown Palace and I would love to revisit that song. Another song I feel would be great to cover is Carolina On My Mind by James Taylor.
Cincy Groove: Does the band have a favorite place to play in North Carolina?
Bobby Britt: Asheville is really an up and coming music town. Our favorite place to play there is the Grey Eagle. In my hometown, which is Chapel Hill, there is a place called the Haw River Ballroom. They have had a lot of great artists perform there.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel the internet has affected music business?
Bobby Britt: I think if you use the internet and social media to your advantage, it can be a very successful platform to spread your music. But if you are not willing to accept change and not learn how to harness the power of the internet, then you are going to get washed away. It also has made it possible for a whole new set of people to get there music out to the world that wouldn’t have been able to do it before.
Cincy Groove: What was your musical upbringing like? Did you always want to play music?
Bobby Britt: My mom, before I could even barely walk said she wanted me to play the violin. Before I had any choice in the matter I was taking classical violin lessons. I really didn’t like it, but was I was about 14 and entered high school, bluegrass became cool all of a sudden. I was home schooled up until high school so my mom really hyper-focused my musical education. So for that reason music became my path in life by default, because it is what I am best at.
Cincy Groove: Are you excited about any upcoming Town Mountain shows?
Bobby Britt: Well, of course we are excited to get to play with Will Kimble at the Crow’s Nest and on Saturday we get to play with a bunch of great bands at Festival of The Bluegrass in Lexington, KY.