By Matt Wickstrom
A heavy dose of bluegrass twang is set hit downtown Lexington on Wednesday night as Asheville, N.C., band Town Mountain returns to the bluegrass for the Breeders’ Cup Festival.
The band will be joined by The Wooks, a local group, and The Travelin’ McCourys, based out of Nashville. The bands will perform on the Kentucky Ale stage at the Courthouse Plaza and Cheapside Pavilion, the home of Thursday Night Live.
The festival is hosting free music downtown every night leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.
Wednesday’s festivities kick off at 6 p.m. with The Wooks, followed by Town Mountain. The Travelin’ McCourys will end the night with their mix of bluegrass and R&B.
These bands are no strangers to Lexington, or to each other. The Travelin’ McCourys recently played at the Harvest Festival at Terrapin Hill Farm in Harrodsburg.
According to Phil Barker, a mandolinist with Town Mountain, the band has been on the same festival bill as the Travelin’ McCourys several times. Town Mountain also played a show at Cosmic Charlie’s this summer with the Wooks.
“We’ve met a lot of great people around the state who really love our style of bluegrass,” Barker said. “People here in Kentucky have a great time at our shows, and that makes us love coming back to see everybody again.”
Town Mountain formed roughly nine years ago when Barker, guitarist Robert Greer, banjoist Jesse Langlais, fiddlist Bobby Britt and bassist Adam Chaffins met in Asheville and began playing together at parties.
The five quickly became friends and decided to start recording together.
Since then, Town Mountain has released three studio albums, with their fourth to be released in early 2016.
The group will release a two-track single commemorating the 50th anniversity of the Grateful Dead entitled “Town Mountain: The Dead Session” on Nov. 13.
The release features Town Mountain performing “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” and “Big River” by the Grateful Dead in the band’s signature style of bluegrass. “Big River” was originally written by Johnny Cash in 1958, but the Grateful Dead put their own spin on the tune.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of the Dead, and we wanted to do a tribute to them since they’ve been such a big influence on us,” Barker said. “We picked a couple of songs of theirs we really liked and added a little bluegrass flare to them.”
The band’s sound is influenced by Jimmy Martin, The Stanley Brothers, Del McCoury and The Travelin’ McCourys, among others.
“They’re all the best at what they do, and they’re such an inspiration to watch and listen to,” Barker said.
Town Mountain will return to Kentucky in January to play at Cosmic Charlie’s on Jan. 22 and at Zanzabar in Louisville on Jan.23.