Archive for August, 2014

critic’s pick 336: the allman brothers band, ‘the 1971 fillmore east recordings’

abbfillmoreeast“Hope this comes out pretty good,” utters Duane Allman at the onset of The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings. We’re cutting our third album here tonight.”

Yeah, it came out pretty good, alright. Roughly three months after the March 1971 performances the guitarist and the rest of the Allman Brothers Band gave at Bill Graham’s historic music hall, the recorded results surfaced as The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East. The album broke the ensemble’s career wide open, further heightened Allman’s already heroic status as a generation-defining guitar stylist and expanded the scope of blues, rock and jazz directed jam bands everywhere.

What The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings does is gather all the available source material that went into the original album – specifically, four full sets performed over two nights – along with the equivalent of an encore, a June 1971 show that served as the final concert staged before the Fillmore East’s closing. All of that is spread over six discs to construct a remarkably comprehensive overview of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s truly landmark concert recordings.

First, let’s explore the surprises. All of the new edition’s first disc and most of the second consist of previously unreleased music. What is especially distinctive here is that an already expanded ABB (fleshed out by harmonica ace Thom Doucette and percussionist Bobby Caldwell) is further augmented by saxophonist Rudolph “Juicy” Carter on co-guitarist Dickey Betts’ heavily jazz-inspired instrumental In Memory of Elizabeth Reed and three other tunes. Carter’s contributions don’t so much offer new insights to these recordings as simply a fresh perspective. He was dismissed from the Fillmore engagement’s final March evening.

The rest of the The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings gathers material initially issued on 1972’s Eat a Peach and the 1992 double-CD The Fillmore Concerts. Those recordings summarize the Allmans at their best, from Berry Oakley’s whiplash bass intro to Whipping Post to Allman’s jubilant slide guitar intro to Statesboro Blues to younger brother Gregg Allman’s bluesy, boozy vocal lead on One Way Out. And that says nothing of the wild ensemble groove that fuels the 35 minute Mountain Jam.

The final disc, originally issued as a bonus on the 2006 reissue of Eat a Peach, is a monster. Performed without any guests, the band rips through essentially the same set of tunes featured on the earlier discs but with noticeably greater cohesion and confidence. The nearly five minute guitar and percussion coda capping Whipping Post is a gorgeous, formless cooldown that underscores the Allmans’ sense of invention at the time.

Taken as a whole, this is a lavish and perhaps even indulgent embellishment of a classic album. Mostly, though, The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings makes a watershed rock ‘n’ roll moment in time sound more alive, vital and complete than ever before.

all the way to 11: ‘this is spinal tap’ turns 30

spinal tap

spinal tap in 1984: derek smalls (harry shearer); nigel tufnel (christopher guest) and david st. hubbins (michael mckean).

“It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever.”

What a telling comment from guitarist David St. Hubbins, one of the three aging Brit rockers on a downward career slide in Rob Reiner’s still-gutbusting 1984 mock documentary This is Spinal Tap, which plays twice on Wednesday as part of the Kentucky Theatre Summer Classics series.

The joke, of course, is that despite the dimwitted revelations that flow from the lips of St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) – insights like, “I believe virtually everything I read… that’ s what makes me more of a selective human than someone who doesn’t believe anything” – the fact remains that This is Spinal Tap is a wickedly clever film. It’s not just glammed up ‘80s nu-metal getting skewered, it is all things rock ‘n’ roll – the personalities, the egos, the banal stage productions, the even more banal music and the seeming implausible bits of dumb luck that play into stardom.

While it is most reflective of the ‘80s, there is also a gentle, almost reverential swipe at Beatlemania, especially in the Yoko Ono overtones of Jeanine Pettibone (June Chadwick), St. Hubbins’ girlfriend who takes over managerial duties for the band by booking one dismal show after another.

“If I told them once, I told them a hundred times,” she says after seeing the marquee billing for a humiliating gig at a children’s zoo. “Put Spinal Tap first and put Puppet Show last.”

Reiner gets in on the fun, too, inserting himself into This is Spinal Tap as filmmaker Marty Di Bergi. In essence, a director playing a director, he presents interview questions within what had to have been a heavily improvised script that are as vacuous as the band’s replies. A typical exchange:

Di Bergi: “Do you feel that playing rock ‘n’ roll music keeps you a child? That is, keeps you in a state of arrested development?”

Smalls: “No. No. No. I feel it’s more like going to a national park or something, and they preserve the moose. That’s my childhood up there on stage. That moose, you know?”

Di Bergi: “So when you’re playing you feel like a preserved moose on stage?”

Smalls: “Yeah.”

There are cameos galore by the likes of Anjelica Huston, Bruno Kirby, Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Paul Shaffer, Fran Drescher and others. But the film belongs to McKean, Guest and Shearer playing heavy metal lightweights as deliriously clueless to the star turns defining their celebrity status as they are, in one of the film’s most famous scenes, to directions to a concert stage from backstage.

All that plus an under-sized Stonehenge, albums with titles like Smell the Glove and Intravenous De Milo and pod-shaped stage cocoons that require blowtorches to open make up the world of This is Spinal Tap.

It’s only mock ‘n’ roll, but you’ll like it.

‘This is Spinal Tap’ shows at 1:30 and 7:15 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 E. Main. Call (859) 231-7924.

revenge of the windbreakers


spinal tap in 1992: cover art for ‘break like the wind’

In honor of Wednesday’s 30th anniversary showing of This is Spinal Tap at the Kentucky Theatre, here is a 1992 interview I conducted with Harry Shearer, one the film’s (and the band’s) three comic architects.

The occasion was a summer tour for which Spinal Tap transformed itself from a purely cinematic creation into an actual live performance band. There was even a new album, the poetically titled Break Like the Wind, to tie into the tour.

To our fine fortune, though, Shearer insisted on being interviewed in character as Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls. During our talk, he discussed those pesky pod props used during shows that were always a trial to climb out of, the clumsy reputation he feels his band earned as a result of This Is Spinal Tap and how tough it can be finding your way to the stage some nights. 

Q: How does it feel to be on tour again? 
A: Great. The amps are louder than ever now, so we’re able to feel the power more than ever. We’re able to dominate an audience far better as a result. It’s serious pain. 
Q: Is pain important to Spinal Tap? 
A: Oh yeah. It’s part of our philosophy as artists. What every artist wants to communicate is pain. True pain. What we do is play so bloody loud that we actually inflict physical pain on you. Also, our lyrical and thematic concepts are so multilayered and confusing that you experience mental pain trying to figure them out. So you really do feel our pain. That’s true communication.

Q: So if an audience member fled from one of your concerts screaming in agony, would that be a sign that you are getting your message across? 
A: That would be like a Nobel Prize. 
Q: Do you feel Spinal Tap has anything to prove with this tour? 
A: If we’ve got anything to prove, it’s just the movie was a hatchet job. We want people to know that the Spinal Tap you think you know is not the real Spinal Tap. 
Q: You really feel that the movie was a hatchet job? 
A: I know it was. We found the stage plenty of times. But they never showed that, did they? I made it out of the pod at least six times out of 10. For eight years, it was ‘Oh, Derek, you going to make it out of the pod tonight?’ 
Q: Do you think audiences agree with your opinion of the film? 
A: Listen, you can only pull the wool over people’s eyes for just so long before they go, ‘Oh, that’s hot and scratchy.’ Especially in the summertime. 
Q: Spinal Tap supposedly disbanded after the film was released. How is it that you got together again to make Break Like the Wind
A: We met up at (band manager) Ian Faith’s funeral. It was a joyous event. People really hated Ian’s guts. Well, they would have if he had any. So it was a real celebration of death. The vibe was so great that we didn’t want to leave. People were dancing on his grave. It was great fun. 
Q: Your current drummer is Ric Shrimpton, the brother of Mick Shrimpton. Wasn’t Mick one of your drummers that blew up? 
A: Well, yeah. Come to think of it, Ric broke his ankle Friday night before the gig in L.A. So it’s like old Mr. Curse going: ‘Don’t forget about me. I’m still here. I’ve still got my power.’ 
Q: How has the reception been at the shows this summer? 
A: The reception’s been good. We even get cable in some cities. The crowds have been great, too. 
Q: In the time between This Is Spinal Tap and Break Like the Wind, could you spot Spinal Tap’s sound in younger bands? 
A: Sure. I could all along. Only now, they admit it. All these Seattle bands admit to being influenced by Spinal Tap. But in the old days, it was always ‘ Spinal who? Sounds like a disease.’ 
Q: Is there any ultimate goal Spinal Tap would like to achieve? 
A: I’ll say this. We’ve been around for 25 years. It seems long past time for us to be in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Especially since there’s no bloody hall. Just the fame. So if they change their minds and realize they’ve made a mistake, now’s the time to do it. They don’t even have to take a plaque off the wall. The whole hall is only on paper at this point anyway. They can just take an eraser to it. 
Q: Do think Spinal Tap runs any risk of breaking up again? 
A: No. I think we’ll stay together as long as we remember how to play. What we stand for, people crave. We’re not like any of those labels. We’re not ‘pre’ this or ‘post’ that or ‘punk’ anything. What we do is just good old generic rock. Yes, generic rock — that’s what we stand for.

in performance: the fairfield four

fairfield two

the fairfield four: bobbye sherrell, larrice byrd sr., joe thompson and levert allison. photo by lee olsen.

“I believe we’re in the right place,” remarked tenor singer Bobbye Sherrell at the midway point of the Fairfield Four’s regal program of a capella gospel last night at Willie’s Locally Known.

On a number of fronts, Sherrell’s estimation of the evening hit the bullseye. For starters, the singing and sermonizing that surrounded this largely traditional set of hymns and spirituals made for inviting sanctuary from the storms that tore through Lexington throughout the evening. Such a setting wasn’t lost on baritone singer Larrice Byrd, Sr., who couldn’t help but reference the downpour outside before launching into the joyous ensemble testimony of Noah.

There was also the matter of the setting. The vocal quartet’s last Lexington shows were decade-old appearances at Rupp Arena and the Kentucky Theatre. The intimacy afforded this performance, especially tenor singer Levert Allison’s churchy audience interaction during Four and Twenty Elders and the booming bass singing of Joe Thompson at the onset of That’s Enough seemed to delight the audience, which awarded the 90 minute set with lasting, attentive quiet. The Fairfield singers seemed equally pleased with the venue, too – even to the point of sending an “amen” to the kitchen staff at Willie’s.

Then again, you almost sensed that any place was the right place for the Fairfield Four. The group’s collective performance enthusiasm seemed as jubilant and sincere as its singing. From the show-opening harmonies of Today, all four vocalists exuded a level of honest, unrelenting cheer. Sure, obvious devotion to the spiritual cast of the music fueled much of that. But the group didn’t overplay that aspect of their repertoire. The singers weren’t out to convert anybody. But when they delivered an exuberant Oh, Rock My Soul, you couldn’t help but be moved by the conviction and celebration of their singing, even if you weren’t sitting in the same parish, so to speak, when it came to what the songs said.

The performance was also as rootsy as it was righteous. You could regularly detect source material within the vocals on songs like the title tune from Fairfield’s 1992 album Standing in the Safety Zone that suggested such primal pop genres as doo-wop.

Mostly though, the show boiled down to a musical communion between four friends. The legacy of their group may be massive (dating back to 1921, in fact). But last night, they summoned spirits through the most lasting, natural and convincing musical device of all – the human voice.

zach brock concert moved to DAC

Just a quick update for anyone planning on taking in tonight’s performance by New York-by-way-of Lexington jazz violinist Zach Brock. The concert is still on but the location has changed.

The thunderstorms and heavy rains that hit Lexington just after 6 p.m. made the show a no-go at its original outdoor location of Moondance Amphitheatre. The concert has now been moved indoors to the Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main. Showtime is tentatively slated between 9 and 9:30 or when the sound equipment originally set up at Moondance can be transported downtown. (The original start time at Moondance was 7 p.m.)

The performance is still free, too.

the sum of the fairfield four

fairfield one

Fairfield Four: Joe Thompson, Bobbye Sherrell, Levert Allison and Larrice Byrd, Sr. Photo by Lee Olsen.

For all of its critical and commercial success, the math didn’t always add up with the Fairfield Four.

When the Rev. J.R. Carrethers formed the a capella gospel group in 1921 with his two sons among the membership, the lineup was a quartet – hence the ensemble’s name. But photos from throughout its storied history, from versions led by the Rev. Samuel McCrary in the ‘40s and ‘50s to the Grammy winning roster featuring Isaac Freeman and Willie “Preacher” Richardson featured on the multi-platinum 2000 soundtrack to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, reveal the head count within the group grew to five and sometimes six singers.

Yet the name never changed. For 93 years, the touring gospel that flowed from Fairfield Baptist Church in Nashville has been credited to the same troupe, regardless of the number of enlistees. It has always been the Fairfield Four.

This weekend, with its first Lexington appearance in over a decade at hand, the group is finally a quartet again. That means its current lineup – Joe Thompson, Levert Allison, Larrice Byrd, Sr., and Bobbye Sherrell – had to relearn a few very old traditions.

“Well, they started out with four, which is how they got the Fairfield Four,” said bass vocalist Thompson, 79. “It was from the church that all these guys belonged to. Then some started dropping out and they added more. Then Sam McCrary came in. He’s the one that really kept the Fairfield Four going. At first, he was my pastor. He baptized me.

“Now we have to learn how to sing with four people all over again. Most of the group got kind of lazy when they added that fifth person. It made it much easier on everybody. But I remember when the group got hooked up with a barbershop quartet. I would listen to it and go, ‘Man, these guys are doing the same thing we’re doing.’ The chords and everything were the same. We just slide into them a different way. So now we’re learning how to sing all over again in that barbershop style.

“Of course, it may be a barbershop style. But what we’re doing is a big ol’ gospel thing.”

Thompson, a cousin to original Fairfield Four members Harold and Rufus Carrethers, began singing with the group on a fill-in basis during the 1950s.

“They used to come get me out of high school to make trips when one was sick or something happened in someone’s family. They would call my mom and ask her if I could go with them. They would have me sing whatever voices they needed.”

For pop and Americana audiences, recognition of the Fairfield Four came much later. John Fogerty enlisted the group for his Blue Moon Swamp album in 1997. That same year, Elvis Costello collaborated on Fairfield’s Grammy-winning I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray. And once the O Brother soundtrack became a sensation, the singers found themselves on the road as part of an all-star tour with the likes of Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris and Ralph Stanley that opened at Rupp Arena in January 2002.

But the full force of the Fairfield Four comes when you hear its four (or five) voices singing on their own. A fine example: the roar of the traditional hymn Hallejujah on the 2001 concert album Wreckin’ the House, where the only accompaniment to the members’ booming harmonies are their fervent handclaps.

“I look at these guys when we’re practicing and you can just see the excitement on their faces when we learn something new in the arrangements we try to put on these old, old songs,” Thompson said. “I just wish you could see the smiles. It’s a lovely thing in my eyesight.”

Fairfield Four performs at 8 tonight at Willie’s Locally Known, 805 N.Broadway. Admission is $20. Call (859) 281-1116 or go to

violins, guitars and a linden tree

zach 1

zach brock. photo by janis vogel.

Inspiration can sprout anywhere. In one especially vivid instance – namely, an original composition on his new Purple Sounds album titled Brooklyn Ballad – Zach Brock discovered it towering out of the ground.

The inspiration the internationally acclaimed, Lexington-born jazz violinist found was something exceedingly precious for any musician working in New York – a tree. Specifically, it was a massive linden tree that grew outside of the one bedroom apartment Brock and his wife lived in for eight years after relocating from a fruitful jazz scene in Chicago.

“I don’t know how old this thing was, but it went up at least eight stories and was just gorgeous. There is so much ugliness in New York all the time that just to have one beautiful tree you can look at out of your window when you’re trying to write some music was wonderful. I didn’t realize how much it meant to me.

“Then, right before I wrote the song, this is probably in 2010, I came home one day and these guys sent by our landlord came in the front yard of our apartment building and cut the tree down. People lost their minds. I mean, there were people in our building throwing things out their windows at these guys. There were people crying and wringing their hands. I couldn’t believe we were all freaking out about a tree, but it was like they came in and took away the most beautiful thing we had. Coming to understand what that meant to myself and this little community I had become part of… the music kind of came from that place.”

Much of the rest Purple Sounds explores the kind of community that exists between jazz violin and guitar. In doing so, Brock chose works that celebrated several historical alliances that employed such instrumentation, including Frank Zappa and Jean-Luc Ponty (Twenty Small Cigars), Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti (the standard After You’ve Gone) and Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli (a fresh arrangement of the duo’s signature tune Nuages).

For Purple Sounds, Brock’s guitarist of choice was Norwegian born Lage Lund, Brock’s roommate when the two studied at Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

“Lage is a dyed-in-the-wool musician’s musician. I think it’s pretty hilarious that he doesn’t even appear in the Downbeat polls and stuff like that. But people come to his gigs and study his playing. It’s crazy. You play gigs with him and he’s got admirers from all over the world. You go online and there are people trading Lage Lund solo transcriptions. So I just wanted to rekindle my musical relationship with him.”

For his homecoming concert tonight at Moondance Ampitheater, Brock will go local with Lexington jazz mainstays Raleigh Dailey (piano), Danny Cecil (bass) and Paul Deatherage (drums) along with local guitar mainstay Bruce Lewis, who lived and worked for many years in Eastern Europe.

“The last time I saw Bruce Lewis, I think, was in Vienna,” Brock said. “I was playing there with a band and he was living in Budapest. He drove over with his two sons just to see our gig. I remember when I was a youngster playing some gigs with him and seeing him with all the different groups he’s played in.

“Raleigh is a real monster, too. All of our opportunities to play together have been in stuff where he and I might be doing a sideman thing, like when we played with the (Lexington) Brass Band. That’s great, but it’s also like you hardly get to play together. So I’m looking forward to this. I’m just excited to get back to Lexington and kind of chill at the end of the summer.”

Zach Brock and Friends perform at 7 tonight at Moondance Amphithater, 1152 Monarch St. in Beaumont Circle. Admission is free. For info, go to

in performance: town mountain

town mountain 2

town mountain: nick disebastian, phil barker, bobby britt, robert greer and jesse langlais.

You could sense from its last two sellout performances at Natasha’s that North Carolina bluegrass sensation Town Mountain had not only outgrown the size of Lexington venue it could fill, but the type of performance setting as well.

Sporting a heavily traditional sound with more-than-ample instrumental chops and a level of honky tonk attitude that favors rustic immediacy over studio-produced slickness, Town Mountain moved over to Cosmic Charlie’s last night in attempt to shake up its performance environment. On that level, the adjustment seemed to work. With ample libations flowing through the audience, as well as onstage, the band shifted successfully from the listening room atmosphere of previous local shows to a kind of dance hall vigor that matched the very obvious drive of its music.

Guitarist/vocalist Robert Greer remained an engaging frontman for Town Mountain’s performance gusto with a jubilant variation on a traditional mountain tenor that fueled such barn dance party pieces as Whiskey with Tears, Up the Ladder and especially Tick on a Dog. The latter was one of several new tunes Town Mountain plans to record during the winter.

But the MVP in terms of bringing scholarly instrumentation to such festive string music was fiddler Bobby Britt. From the fervency and subtle Celtic flair of Four Miles to a series of hearty and seemingly instinctual solos, one of which sent the show past the midnight hour, there was hardly a tune uncorked by Town Mountain that Britt didn’t light a fuse to with his playing.

The midnight element sets up the only potential snag in Town Mountain’s full transition to a club act. While Cosmic Charlie’s proved the proper home for the younger, more vocal dancing enthusiasts that may have found venues like Natasha’s too quiet and confining, last night’s starting time of 11:10 p.m. undoubtedly put the squeeze on older patrons that are still very much part of the band’s fanbase. While the audience size didn’t thin dramatically as night turned into morning, it did lose a few pockets of fans – older ones, especially – early in the set.

That’s the only real problem in having a diverse audience. Cater favorably to one faction and members of the other might chose to bolt from the party altogether.

in performance: audio one

audio one pt 2

audio one, part two: jen paulson, josh berman, jeb bishop, nick macri and dave rempis.

It’s a broad comparison, but taking in everything that transpired during last night’s Outside the Spotlight performance by Audio One at Embrace Church was kind of akin to watching a soccer game. There was so much going between the ensemble’s 10 members – namely, vigorous soloing, exchanges and union lines between different factions within the group along with the agility to shift between composed sections, their cues and free improvising. All of it was continually in motion, too. While everything led to a satisfying conclusion in each of the six lengthy tunes Audio One performed during the two hour program, the real thrill was experiencing the bounty of ideas that formulated, the ultimate risks taken as each tune progressed and how such musical fearlessness showcased the abilities of the band’s remarkable arsenal of players.

Count vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz among the craftiest of the bunch. On the show opening Tape, one of four new pieces by saxophonist/clarinetist/group leader Ken Vandermark that made their performance debut last night, Adasiewicz applied a level of physicality to his playing that produced huge and often harsh sounds. You almost thought he was hitting his keys with hammers instead of mallets. Later, at the beginning of the evening’s second set, he contributed to an otherworldly chamber-like sound with violist Jen Paulson and bassist Nick Macri. All three artists, including Adasiewicz, played with a bow during the exchange.

Then there was the lyrical might triggered during the Julius Hemphill medley of The Hard Blues and Skin 1 that allowed drummer Tim Daisy to accelerate the pace and groove with help from a wildly scorched alto sax break from Nick Mazzarella. That, in turn, set up the very human (as in gargling) sound of Jeb Bishop’s muted trombone which foreshadowed a brief, freely improvised group implosion.

But the kicker was the show-closing cover of the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Theme De Yoyo, a tune anchored by a killer bass line that Vandermark and all of Audio One’s six member front line of brass and reed players appropriated and blew up into a monstrous groove. But the tune was also deliciously schizophrenic, shifting back and forth from earthy funk to complete melodic anarchy with eerie, exact and fun precision.

mountain climbing

town mountain

bobby britt, phil barker, robert greer and jesse langlais of town mountain performing at natasha’s in june. herald-leader staff photo by rich copley.

Sometimes you can’t help but notice the growth of an enterprise.

Take for instance, the rapidly expanding visibility and acceptance of Town Mountain, the tirelessly rustic bluegrass troupe out of Asheville, North Carolina that has come to think of Lexington as something of a performance home away from home. Sporting a sound rooted in string band tradition but with a fearsome instrumental drive that makes its music anything but a museum piece, the band has watched its audiences grow younger, larger and more feverishly enthusiastic.

Vocalist, guitarist and frontman Robert Greer got an inkling of Town Mountain’s mounting appeal two years ago when the quintet conquered the mighty bluegrass task of selling out a Seattle club on a Tuesday night.

“That was the first time I really noticed where things were going,” Greer said. “That’s really becoming more and more the way for us and I think that’s just due to us sticking around. I have great confidence in our band, in our songwriting and in our presentation. But a big part of it is hanging around, being persistent and not worrying about what’s going on around us.

“So, yeah, growth is a trend that is happening for us. And we’re welcoming it.”

Such growth has been on vivid display in Lexington over the past 18 months. Town

Mountain introduced itself through several intimate shows at Willie’s Locally Known, a pair of well-received sets at the 2013 Festival of the Bluegrass and a trio of sold out performances at Natasha’s culminating with a Best of Bluegrass kickoff in June with Lonesome River Band. Town Mountain’s Tonight’s return brings the band to Cosmic Charlie’s for the first time.

The change in performance venues was quite purposeful. Despite being a club known primarily for showcasing indie rock acts, Cosmic Charlie’s wasn’t simply a larger hall for Town Mountain to play, it was a move away from the sit-down atmosphere of previous performances into a setting that encouraged dancing, audience involvement and a bit more volume.

“We all feel like the band is more in its element whenever we’re able to let it all hang out and create more of a dancing quality environment,” Greer said. “I think a lot of our music lends itself to that. That’s why we’re stoked to play Cosmic Charlie’s because we’re going to plug in and be able to get above the crowd noise a lot better than a place where we’re playing strictly into the microphones.”

Also marking this latest growth spurt for Town Mountain was the release this week of the band’s first concert recording, Live at the Isis. Admittedly, much of the unvarnished excitement generated on the 10-song set comes from the band playing on home turf in Asheville. But the music also speaks to the performance direction Greer referred to. Mandolinist Phil Barker’s Lawdog sounds like White Lightning-era George Jones with an Appalachian makeover, Greer’s Up the Ladder could pass for Jerry Lee Lewis on a bluegrass bender and the ferocious instrumental Tarheel Boys taps directly into the speed, agility and drive that fuels Town Mountain’s overall sound.

“All of this music just evolves,” Greer said. “We bring a brand new take when we start playing it out live, so it evolves naturally. The more times we play a song, the more we figure out something that works dynamically. Then we’re going to work that into the music, too. It’s cool. Tarheel Boys in particular, sounds really good on the live record. It’s a high energy number.”

It also reflects a sound increasingly rare in a bluegrass world that often favors the spit-and-polish of modern country songwriting over the raw fervor of roots driven string music.

“Well, that’s good for us, I guess, because we’re going to continue doing what we do.”

Town Mountain performs at 10 tonight at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Tickets are $12. Call (859) 309-9499 or go to

« Previous entries

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | About Our Ads | Copyright