When Town Mountain kicks off Music City Roots this week, those with the bluegrass gene will rise up and holler. We’ve not had a big blast of ‘grass on the show in a while, but this week we’re going to dive back in hard, starting with this buzzed-about Asheville band and closing with acts that represent both sides of the newgrass/bluegrass coin. Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass will offer up their trippy, soulful take on acoustic tradition in the penultimate slot. And taking us home will be a duo of Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson, two timeless, Opry-steeped voices who have joined forces for an album, whose release we’re celebrating this week.
Town Mountain is on the make. Coming out of the same NC scene that produced the Steep Canyon Rangers and Chatham County Line, this Asheville quintet is one of those bands that should make tradition-minded fans comfortable that the burning historic core of the music is alive and well. They burst on the national scene in 2005 when they won the Rockygrass band competition in Lyons, Colorado. And just recently they signed to the legendary Pinecastle Records and released Steady Operator in May. Mike Bub, legendary bass player and member of 18 South produced the disc, and he says: “This album is a culmination of thousands of miles traveled across America, playing for audiences as diverse as the traditional bluegrass crowd to the hippie jam band contingent in big cities and festivals to pubs and house concerts. Diverse audiences that have one thing in common, a love for inspired, original, well played music, performed with a spirit that appeals to fans of all types and ages.”
The middle of our show will fill the variety quotient with the folk-rock of Onward, Soldiers from Wilmington, NC, blues/funk guitarist and singer Geoff Achison from Australia, and all-around musical all-star Randall Bramblett, in a return Roots engagement. And then it’s back to the grass, or at least its modern offshoots, with Greensky Bluegrass. Winners of the 2006 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition, these guys are jamming their way up in the same scene that’s turning Yonder Mountain Stringband and the Infamous Stringdusters into stars. A recent and much You Tubed show from Boulder featured the Dusters and Greensky jamming together on old timers like “High On A Mountain” and modern-day covers like Cee-Lo’s “Foret You” only with the real non-radio lyric. They will set the table for Gene Watson and Rhonda Vincent, the astonishing seven-time winner of the IBMA’s Female Vocalist of the Year prize. I haven’t heard their new duo CD yet, but it’s bound to be pretty classic given the track record of each in their respective fields.
Many of us are more curious than ever about where bluegrass is going and what it’s becoming, and this show ought to be a pretty good indication.