This article was originally published in The UB Post on December 3, 2019.
Columbia, MD- Bluegrass outfit Town Mountain found themselves guests of the Charm City region at The Soundry in nearby Columbia last month.
On the evening of November 1, locals at The Soundry beamed with excitement as the Asheville-based quintet approached the stage. From the very beginning, the show was high – energy, and it didn’t calm down from start to finish. While The Soundry asks fans to keep their noise to a minimum, as the venue is considered a listening room, the band invited fans to get up, dance and sing along while they played. Of all the concerts I’ve been too, this one was probably one of the most intimate. The band and the crowd were in sync with each other only fueling the band’s already stellar performance.
Town Mountain has been touring across the country, releasing new music, and building a continuously growing fan base for the past fifteen years. Their first album, Original Bluegrass and Roots Country, was released in 2007 and followed by five albums including their latest in 2018, New Freedom Blues. Phil Barker, who is a vocalist and mandolinist, continues to enjoy live performances. “We want a venue to have something for everyone,” said Barker. “We want a space for people who want to get up and dance and enjoy the night that way and also a space for fans that want to sit down and enjoy a drink.”
The group cites two sources of major influence: country legends like Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and George Jones, and classic rock group The Grateful Dead.
For Barker, the group aims to “redefine a genre”. Many people would scoff at such a goal or consider it to be too ambitious for them. As I listen to their studio work, I can certainly hear the influences they spoke of, but I too hear something unique. The classic bluegrass sound takes a modern twist, one that offers something new and welcome to country music as a whole. Town Mountain extends the realm of what bluegrass is, and their attempt to redefine a genre is not only doable, it is being done.
In recent months, I have found myself leaving shows – often before the encore. The performers, often, seems as if they lost touch with the audience or each other around the show’s midpoint causing their music as a whole to suffer.
This was not the case here.
Not only did I stay for the entire show, but I felt engaged throughout its duration. Their stage presence was exemplary. Each musician was so tightly knit with each other that I could rarely hear a mistake. Being a musician myself, this is a feat that is worthy of commendation.
For older generations who question the lack of integrity in current popular music, much of their criticism holds true. Town Mountain and artists like them, however, dispel these generalizations by creating new music that captures their uniqueness while remaining loyal to their country roots.
In short, their show was stellar, and I will be looking forward to the next time they make a stop in the Baltimore area.
Tony Sheaffer is a staff writer and music critic for the UB Post.