Album review: ‘The Dead Session,’ Town Mountain

Google Town Mountain and the words “Hard Drivin’ Carolina String Band” stick right out in prideful self-description. That says something.

Town MountainTake a dip into their page and check a video or two. Trad ‘grass dominates—sharp suits and all in some of them. But these four expert pickers (mandolin, banjo, guitar, and fiddle) were exposed to all kinds of bohemian things growing up in the mountains around Asheville, North Carolina.

Town Mountain is Phil Barker (mandolin and vocals), Robert Greer (guitar and vocals), Jess Langlais (banjo and vocals), Bobby Britt (fiddle) and Adam Chaffins (bass).

How the Grateful Dead permeated those Southeast hills, as they did everywhere else (Jerry Garcia thrived on bluegrass), comes to beautiful fruition through these men on this “The Dead Session” single. First up, “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” the fascinating, trippy groove of it ridden with incredible dexterity and Mountain soul by all.

Robert Hunter’s words project just so naturally within bluegrass; always have. “Big River” kicks off stoutly after that, Johnny Cash’s country romp hillbillied up, tall and proud. Cut in celebration of the Dead’s 50th, two songs goes by too fast. I’d urge these gents to get back to the studio to expand on the idea, and these magnificent melodies.

-Tom Clarke

Town Mountain
“The Dead Session”
(TownMountain.net)

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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