Town Mountain hails from the heart of bluegrass country in Ashville, North Carolina. This 5 piece outfit plays a very unique brand of bluegrass that has been fully road tested. Having just completed their 5th album titled "Southern Cresent", they will have an album release show at Hill Country BBQ in New York City on April 8th 2016. Come on out for a fun night of dancing and music. I discussed the new album with member Jesse Langlais.
R.V.B. - Congratulations on your new album Southern Crescent. It's a great sounding collection of songs. It's so traditional and warm sounding that I need a copy on vinyl for my huge record collection. I'm very Impressed with the genuine live sound. How did recording in Louisiana at Cyprus House Studio add to feel of this album?
J.L. - Thanks. We're really proud of this album. It's funny that you mention vinyl because we really want to press it on vinyl. I think the music and artwork harken back to days when vinyl was the norm and digital was just used for Casio calculator watches. The live sound is something we have done on our past 3 recordings. However, this recording has conveyed that the best so far. We wanted to have a product that sounds like us on stage and we needed someone to help us capture that. Dirk is a master musician of all things American. Cajun, Old Time, country blues, he knows it, lives it and respects it. We knew that he would help us attain that sound because of his musical background. It also helps to put yourself in an inspiring location when trying to, well be inspired. South Louisiana culture is romantic, rich, familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time. We love the music, food and people there and we thought what better a place than Breaux Bridge.
R.V.B. - With many albums in Town Mountain's mine, how did you continue to come up with the fresh exciting ideas on this release?
J.L. - Well, with all the talented bands, musicians, songwriters etc out there you need to continually create to keep up with the scene. Art has always had that element of competition in it. I will say though we all create because it's in us and it needs to be let out. It helps when you have multiple songwriters in the band. It makes you bring your best material to the table. It also gives the listener multiple perspectives.
R.V.B. - The Title track has an interesting chorus that keeps you riding along with the "Number 9". What is the story behind this track?
J.L. - Phil wrote this song so I can only give my interpretation of it. The Southern Crescent line is a train that ran from New Orleans all the way up to DC and maybe a bit farther north. As you can hear in the song: longing to be with your loved one will make you change your course. The character is heading back to that person.
R.V.B. - Track 5, "House with No Windows" has an interesting banjo backing that kind of pushes the traditional bluegrass boundaries with a slow driving riff and great harmony vocals. is that a goal of Town Mountain to stretch the boundaries a little?
J.L. - I wrote "House..." with that similar riff on the guitar. When I picked up the banjo it kind of evolved into what you hear on the cut. I'm a huge, huge John Hartford fan. He's one of my heroes!! He had a great way of using a pedal or a riff to set the tone of the song. He used that musical idea on so many songs but the most popular would be "Gentle On my Mind". To answer your question: yes I think TM pushes the boundaries. However, we make the music that comes out of us. It's the combination of us 5 guys playing original music that makes it sound like it does. We aren't trying to change what bluegrass was, is or will be. We just make music.
R.V.B. - You have a couple of instrumentals in the mix and you start the album off with one called St Augustine. How did you come up with the name for that one. The other track "Leroy's Reel" has a very cool arrangement that deviates from the standard C to G routine. Did Leroy fish?
J.L. - Bobby, wrote "St. Augustine" during a soundcheck at a house concert we we're playing at...wait for it... in St. Augustine, FL. You can't make this up. It literally came to him just like that. Leroy is real. He's now just a legend or perhaps now he's just a myth. I knew Leroy and I'm happy to say I haven't seen him in years and I hope to never see him again. Love you Leroy but sorry. I guess you could say Leroy fished. He definitely liked chowder.
R.V.B. - The solos on the album are nicely executed throughout. How long have you guys been playing together and are you all from the Asheville area? What's in the water there to breed this great talent?
J.L. - Some of us have been playing music with each other for 12 plus years. We we're friends before we we're band mates. That makes a world of difference. We're not hired guns, we're in this together. The band has been around for 10 years. With lots of other people in the fold over the years. Western North Carolina is littered with very talented people and some of them happen to be musicians. I'm not sure why that's the case but if you've ever seen the Blue Ridge Mountains on a spring day you can see how inspiring it is here. Oh yeah, I think there's beer in the water.
R.V.B. - What were your influences Jesse... as a banjo player?
J.L. - Well, I mentioned John Hartford as one of my main influences. I also put Ray Charles in there. Not because I sound like him but I have listened to so much of Ray that it has to influence me. I can thank my parents for that! They took me to see him when I was 5. Vivid childhood memories for sure. Some other banjo heroes would be Earl Scruggs, JD Crowe, Don Reno, Ryan Cavanaugh, Jerry Garcia and one of the most important and one of my late great friends, Billy Constable. Billy was and continues to be a mentor to so many people here in Western North Carolina. Miss you Billy.
R.V.B. - How do you guys enjoy life on the road? Is playing at a large festival the same as a small club?
J.L. - If you don't love being on the road then being a musician is not for you. Today most musicians make their money from touring so...it necessary! I do love traveling to unfamiliar places with my friends. It's exciting and we always make new friends. Playing music anywhere is always a thrill. Festivals are special though because it's like a reunion with all these other musicians out there doing what you do. It also makes great jam sessions.
R.V.B. - How long did this great album take to complete from start to finish? Were all the songs pretty much finished before you went to work with Dirk Powell?
J.L. - I'm not sure what you mean by start to finish. It's complicated. I will say that the final product has been done for over a year. It took about a week to record and mix. Then we smoked it low and slow for about 12 months. And we're happy to be serving it up on April 1st. I'd also like to mention how excited we are to be releasing this on a brand new label based here in North Carolina, LoHi Records. There are some really great people and musicians involved with LoHi you can expect more great thing to come from them.
R.V.B. - It's great that bluegrass music is really flourishing and getting popular in areas where it wasn't generally part of the mainstream... such as New York City. Do you guys enjoy showcasing your music in areas like this?
J.L. - Absolutely, we love NYC. I wish I could tell you some stories but I'll refrain. We genuinely enjoy playing our music wherever it takes us.
R.V.B. - Good luck with your new album and have a great season in 2016.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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For more information on Town Mountain visit this site www.townmountain.net
Special thanks to Erin Scholze
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