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Town Mountain Brings Bluegrass to NMF ’16

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Town Mountain hails from the hills of Asheville, NC, a community rich in songs and their concurrent writers. The self described “hard-drivin’ Carolina string band,” which released their latest critically acclaimed work Southern Crescent, on Low High Records earlier this year.

The band decided to work with Louisiana-based producer and musician Dirk Powell (who has worked extensively with artists such as Jack White, Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez, T-Bone Burnett, among others) to craft their most recent effort.

“(Powell) had us in an old cypress cabin that he’s converted into a recording studio, so it has a really cool vibe to it,” said Phil Barker, Town Mountain’s long-time mandolin player. “He really provided us with a laid back, relaxed environment to record in; and he wanted to capture the band as close to live as possible, and I think that’s what we did.”

During the recording process, the band stayed at a local bed and breakfast that consisted of small cabins on the shore of the Mississippi River. “We were definitely in the area, which was important to us to really get a feel for the surroundings and kind of incorporate that into the musical feel in general,” said Barker, who said the Powell charged the band with playing entirely live for the recording of the album.

North Carolina’s own Town Mountain will make their Nelsonville Music Festival debut this year. (

“We’ve recorded before while we’re all playing at the same time — but maybe not in the same room or even looking at each other; maybe we could hear each other – but we’d all be in these little isolation booths recording,” said Barker. “We wanted to try and do something where we could all be engaged with each other while we’re playing because we feed off of each other musically and energy-wise – and there is a different feel, sonically, when you’re all in the same room together, and that’s something we wanted to try, and Dirk was all about that, that’s the way that he likes to record.”

Barker said that the new material has been going over well with audiences, and that he hopes that the lot at the Nelsonville Music Festival will enjoy them, too – even if Town Mountain might be the most “traditionally” bluegrass outfit playing the festival.

“We always love playing a festival where we’re one of the only bluegrass bands because we can open people’s ears to what this kind of music can be. Just because you see traditional bluegrass instruments on the stage doesn’t mean that it’s gonna sound like contemporary bluegrass that you hear on the radio, you can blend a lot of influences in it with those instruments,” said Barker. “And I think now, more than ever, people are used to seeing a banjo on stage, with bands like Mumford and Sons, so you can have these same instruments on stage so they’ll give it a chance. It’s a bout taking those five instruments and creating something unique. We hope that they like it, we’ll see.”