Front Row Focus | Concert Review: Town Mountain / Railroad Earth (January 16, 2016)

Concert Review: Town Mountain / Railroad Earth (January 16, 2016)

February 01, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

ARTISTS:  Town Mountain / Railroad Earth

VENUE:  The Orange Peel - Asheville, NC

DATE:  January 16, 2016

Review By:  Hannah Bober

Photos By:  David Simchock

Town Mountain 2016-01-16 (Asheville, NC)Town Mountain 2016-01-16 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock Nighttime music and entertainment before happy hour on a Friday might be off-limits in some circles, but here in Asheville the crowds are just getting warmed up for the weekend. Downtown at the Orange Peel, natives and travelers alike come throughout the week to hang loose, shake off the workday, and soak up the local culture. Local fare was definitely in the works on this Tuesday night, with an opening performance by beloved Asheville stringband, Town Mountain.  Often a headlining act themselves at various venues in the area, on this particular night their familiar tunes and laid-back Southern demeanor gave way for a performance by "newgrass" jam band Railroad Earth. Back-to-back, these two bluegrass favorites are certainly enough to make you forget you have school in the morning.

Town Mountain opened with a lively instrumental, followed by a stellar rendition of Johnny Cash's "Big River". As much as I enjoy a great deal of their music, I would be lying if I said I wasn't eagerly waiting to see if the band would play their famous Bruce Springsteen cover, "I'm on Fire." The first song I ever heard by Town Mountain and the one which initially sparked my interest in the band, this smooth yet intense piece is given an entirely different, infectious sound with a fiddle and a banjo. Needless to say, I was thrilled when they played it early on in the set.
Town Mountain 2016-01-16 (Asheville, NC)Town Mountain 2016-01-16 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock
Town Mountain’s members, who I can attest as an avid YouTube browser sound just as good recording out in the sticks as they do on a professional stage, include Robert Greer (vocals, guitar), Jack Devereux (fiddle), Phil Barker (mandolin, vocals), Jesse Langlais (banjo, vocals), and Adam Chaffins (bass). It makes sense that they always seem completely at ease with their audience, as many of their fans are from the area and there are undoubtedly multiple familiar faces in the crowd. I personally like to hit up a show of theirs every now and again when the mood strikes for good bluegrass and an easygoing atmosphere.

Railroad Earth 2016-01-16 (Asheville, NC)Railroad Earth 2016-01-16 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock Railroad Earth made a gradual but enthusiastically-received entrance, laying into a lengthy jam as the crowd leisurely conversed with friends and ordered drinks. The band works within several genres, from folk and bluegrass to rock, which stands to reason when one considers the plethora of instrumental capabilities they possess.  With Andrew Altman (bass), Carey Harmon (drums, percussion, vocals), Todd Sheaffer (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Andy Goessling (guitar, banjo, mandolin, saxophone), John Skehan (mandolin, piano, bouzouki, vocals) and Tim Carbone (violin, electric guitar, vocals), the group produces such a variety of sounds that they are sure to hit a note or two in all of their listeners.

Following another upbeat, instrumental reminiscent of an Irish jig, the band played the sweet, slower melody "A Day on the Sand". There was a brief pause as they acknowledged the room full of bluegrass fans and exclaimed, "Very nice to be in Asheville again!  What a beautiful place to be; a beautiful day." Hometown shout-outs like these serve as an easy reminder of why the Asheville nightlife draws such a crowd. Lightening things up a bit, they brought out "Old Man and the Land". The heartfelt lyrics and bright, springy plucking of the strings had everyone moving once again.

One of the highlights of the evening was Railroad Earth's cover of "Fisherman's Blues", a skillfully crafted piece by Celtic folk rock band The Waterboys. Keeping with Waterboys' rhythm and multi-instrument complexity while adding some flavor of their own, the band definitely produced a crowd-pleaser. Preceding this was the slightly whimsical "Butterfly and the Tree", which further showcased their musical diversity and created an especially balanced vibe to the night's set. Throw all of these elements together, and you've got yourself a damn good bluegrass jam show.




Railroad Earth 2016-01-16 (Asheville, NC)Railroad Earth 2016-01-16 (Asheville, NC)© Copyright David J. Simchock



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