Asheville Music Weekend: Town Mountain at The Orange Peel, Marcus King Family Reunion


Town Mountain/ photo by Sandlin Gaither

By Caleb Calhoun

Town Mountain brings their new Freedom Blues to The Orange Peel

There aren’t too many bands in the bluegrass scene these days any hotter than Asheville’s own Town Mountain. With five critically acclaimed studio albums, multiple cross-country tours and line-up shares with the likes of The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, and Tyler Childers, they’ve truly made their mark on the national music scene.

They’ll celebrate the release of their newest offering, New Freedom Blues (available everywhere on 10/26 or at the merch table Saturday night) on Saturday at The Orange Peel here in Asheville. While the album stays true to their roots, it clearly represents the next step in the evolution of both their studio sound and their live performances. Billed early on as a “listening room” band, their sound and style has progressed significantly, taking them further and further into new-grass and outlaw country, and pushing their fan base out of their seats and onto the dance floor.

According to bassist Zachary Smith, that newfound freedom is one of the reasons they love playing The Orange Peel so much.

“It’s such a lively audience,” Smith gushes, “and Robert Greer’s voice somehow makes people drink more than they would on a typical Saturday night. It’s our home town so we jump around on stage and are more animated than normal. It’s always epic to be on such a large stage with a full crowd, but I also get pretty jittery because it’s such a big room.”

Having seen Smith play that room multiple times however, from a fan’s perspective, that is difficult to believe. He has that same look, that same dirty trucker-cap and Budha sized grin he is always wearing and, jitters or no jitters, he always seems to be having one helluva lot of fun.

It’s the professional and family-oriented nature of the band that allows him to enjoy himself so much, according to Smith

“They are definitely my family. I stayed on Jesse Langlais‘ (banjo, vox) couch for many nights before I actually moved to Asheville and I call him Grandpa. Still, it is by far the most professional outlet I have ever played with but it’s still fun. It’s a good group of dudes to jam and travel with.”

I don’t doubt that, having spent a decent amount of time around each of the members. Nonetheless, this was my first chance to get with Smith one-on-one, and I could instantly see how well his personality fits in with the group as a whole. On the stage as well, his energetic bass playing meshes perfectly with the direction the band has taken over the last few years.

“It sounds like on previous albums they had catered to the bluegrass community, but this album they just threw that out the window,” Smith explains. “We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves and we want to appeal to a wider range of people. I don’t think I had all that much to do with the way this album turned out,” he continues, his humility clearly sincere, “but they definitely saw that I’m comfortable with a walking bass line and they did use that to their advantage on this album.”

Having heard New Freedom Blues in it’s entirety, I can’t argue with that assessment. By far their most energetic album, start to finish, the record, taken piece-meal or at a whole, stands up musically to their previous work while exploring some wildly new territory. Devoid of the conservatively traditional ballads that marked much of their early work ,New Freedom Blues makes their earlier albums feel more like foreshadows than finished products, an impressive feat considering the quality of Southern Crescent, Leave The Bottle, and Heroes and Heretics. Furthermore, their willingness to leave the realm of bluegrass theory and allow many of the songs to take on a more outlaw and Americana progression allows each of their unique musical personalities to shine through without losing any of the synergy of the fullness of the group.

Saturday night they will have Lindsay Lou opening for them, and if you aren’t familiar with her music already, then it’s time. In fact, Smith’s family loves her so much that he isn’t even sure who exactly they are coming to see.

“My family is coming down from Boone,” he chuckles, “and I’m not sure if they are coming to see me or to see the openers.”

The truth is, everyone is excited to see Lindsay Lou, but we are buying our tickets to see Town Mountain. Judging from my previous experiences with this band, it’s unlikely that we will be disappointed.

PS. There are certain things you should never yell in a crowd and certain things you should never yell at bands. Both collide with Town Mountain, so for the safety of everyone, and so you don’t look like a jerk begging a band with 70 original tunes to play a cover, could everyone act like they’ve been to a show before and not yell “I’m On Fire” at the stage? I’m not saying. I’m just sayin’.

Marcus King Family Reunion at Pisgah Brewing Company

We all know that Marcus King isn’t really from Asheville, but that doesn’t stop any of us from claiming him as one of our own. Warren Hayne’s prodigy has taken an interest in this town, playing everything from Tuesday Night Funk Jam to the US Cellular Center, as well as employing and collaborating with an entire cross-section of the Asheville music scene.

This weekend his second annual Family Reunion takes place Friday and Saturday at Pisgah Brewing Comany, and in addition to an unbelievably well curated lineup of national acts, local rockers Travers Brothership will be sharing the stage as well.

The Brothership bring a mix of Southern rock and blues along with their high energy set, and, having just spent time in the studio recording a new album, should be about as on point musically as it is possible to be.

If you have the time and the inclination, this is worth purchasing the two-day passes and raging away the weekend with some of the best bands in the country.