As a card-carrying Asheville band, Town Mountain hails from one of the nation’s most prominent bluegrass centers. But for its latest album, the group made an unexpected choice for recording location: the bayou hamlet of Breaux Bridge, La., a stone’s throw from Lafayette.
That’s where Town Mountain recorded “Southern Crescent” in producer Dirk Powell’s Cypress House studio. And even though Louisiana has never been known as a bluegrass hotbed, doing a bit of Creole outreach makes more sense than you’d think.
“Actually, we think of it as a possible crossover,” said Town Mountain mandolinist Phil Barker. “There’s something communal about both bluegrass and Cajun. With both, everybody knows everybody and it’s all intertwined. And you can pick and play both whenever and wherever, whether it’s a party or a show. Trying to make that connection seemed like a worthwhile endeavor, and we feel like it went over great. At the end of the session, we did a show at this cool club in Lafayette, and we had people dancing to bluegrass. People down there are open-minded, for sure.”
The surroundings resulted in some quirky rhythmic flourishes on “Southern Crescent,” like the barrelhouse piano on “Comin’ Back to You.” But the album is still firmly grounded in bluegrass tradition, thanks to Town Mountain frontman Robert Greer’s classic bluegrass voice.
It’s always nice to be noticed for the years of work you’ve put into something. But you know, you don’t play bluegrass for awards or money because there’s not much of either to be had.
Phil Barker, mandolinist for Town Mountain
“Southern Crescent” is the fifth Town Mountain album, and the hope is that it will continue the group’s upward trajectory. It also wouldn’t hurt the band’s cause if they were to win the IBMA Award they’re up for this week, emerging artist of the year (which they were also nominated for in 2014).
“It’s always nice to be noticed for the years of work you’ve put into something,” Barker said. “But you know, you don’t play bluegrass for awards or money because there’s not much of either to be had. You do it because you love it and want others to know about it.”