taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment

TOWN MOUNTAIN — Steady Operator

You don’t often associate the concept of an “it” band with the fastidious world of bluegrass, but every so often a young act comes along with the potential to make the leap into the upper echelons of string music. The Infamous Stringdusters come to mind most recently, before them the Steep Canyon Rangers, and now another Asheville product is picking on bluegrass norms. With their third album Steady Operator, Town Mountain delivers 11 songs that toe the line between traditional and progressive bluegrass ideas without ever going too far in either direction, but dabbling just enough to keep it interesting. The five members of Town Mountain, of course, are all masterful players, but at the center of this band’s sound is the bourbon-y, slightly slurred lead vocal of Robert Greer, singing songs that range from the biblical romp “The Humble Shepherd” to the Hank Williams III-penned country crier “Five Shots of Whiskey.” Town Mountain are at their best, however, when they turn on the punk attitudes just a little bit. Opener “Diggin’ On the Mountainside” decries both the mountaintop removal industry and the

Yankee-fication of their hometown with the line, “They’re coming in from out of town/ they cut the timber and stripping the ground/ rich folks diggin’ on a mountainside/ come to build their castles high.” The fatalist insolence is taken a step further on “All You Despise” when they come to the determination that swinging a hammer all day might be preferable to the life of a musician, but there’s little other indication that they don’t love the life they’ve chosen. “Why settle for a man when you can have a star?” Greer asks on the bawdy “Sugar Mama.” Maybe not just yet, but they’re on their way.