On Asheville-based Town Mountain’s sixth studio album, the group continues to build on its successful sound. New Freedom Blues finds Town Mountain having it both ways: The five-piece is a reliable purveyor of classic bluegrass, yet its take on Appalachian music is subtly imbued with a modern-day feel that lets the group express its own character.
With four songwriters and three capable vocalists, Town Mountain can deftly explore different approaches. Banjo player and singer Jesse Langlais writes songs that lean ever so slightly in a country and western direction, while Phil Barker (mandolin and vocals) and Robert Greer (guitar and vocals) turn in more traditionally ones. Greer’s “Witch Trials” sports sturdy construction that transcends bluegrass without betraying its core musical values. And Bobby Britt offers a lively instrumental composition, “Tar Heal,” showcasing his precise, yet freewheeling, fiddling style.
The album has a casual, upbeat feel, full of warm and playful humor. It’s only on the final track—“Down Low,” a tune cowritten by Langlais and guest vocalist Tyler Childers—that Town Mountain expresses a melancholy vibe. Even then, the minor-key melody is peppered with elements more associated with country and rock.
With New Freedom Blues, Town Mountain doesn’t blaze a great deal of new territory; instead, the band expands upon what already works. The end result is an album that will delight prior fans and perhaps earn the hard-working quintet some new ones.
Town Mountain plays an all-ages release show at Asheville’s Orange Peel at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 6. Find more details at townmountain.net.