TOWN MOUNTAIN – New Freedom Blues (own label)

New Freedom BluesBased in Asheville, North Carolina, New Freedom Blues is the quintet’s sixth studio album which, while their feet are still firmly planted in the bluegrass pastures, extends its horizons to more modern forms of farming. As such, it’s a kick drum that underpins the title track opener, straddling traditional banjo and fiddle bluegrass and new shapes on a song about the ambivalence of gaining independence but at the expense of ending a relationship. Things get frisky with ‘North Of Cheyenne’, doubtless causing sighs of relief among longtime fans and genre devotees fearing the band might be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Indeed, the new directions here are subtle rather than major adjustments, such as utilising a full drum kit (manned by Miles Miller from Sturgill Simpson’s band) for the first time or picking different banjo or mandolin notes and, as such, numbers like ‘Lazy River’, the fiddle driven instrumental ‘Tar Heal’ and the stomping ‘Life And Debt’ certainly won’t scare the horses.

However, elsewhere slow waltzer ‘Pamlico’ has shades of The Band while both ‘One Drop In The Bottle’ and ‘Witch Trials’ swap the mountain still for the honky tonk and ‘Way I’m Made’ has string band swing sensibilities. They also team up with emergent Appalachian country star Tyler Childers who co-wrote and sings on album closer ‘Down Low’, a bluesier outlaw country number haunted by the ghost of Waylon Jennings.

Well aware of on what side their bread is buttered, it may upset the bluegrass applecart, but it’s good to hear them redistributing the load somewhat.

Mike Davies

Artists’ website:

‘Life And Debt’ – live:

Tyler Childers – new album and London date

Tyler Childers

26 year-old Tyler Childers of Lawrence County, Kentucky has announced details of the physical release of Live On Red Barn Radio I & II, out via Thirty Tigers on August 31, 2018. This new physical release follows Tyler’s semi-autobiographical debut album, Purgatory, which outlined Tyler’s development from wayward youth to married man, and was launched to critical acclaim in January 2018. Live On Red Barn Radio I & II will be supported with a date at London’s Dingwalls on September 4, 2018.

With Volume I recorded on May 29, 2013, and the subsequent Volume II recorded on November 7, 2013, Tyler Childers Live On Red Barn Radio I & II captures a young talent on the cusp of something distinguished. Never previously released on a physical format, the dual-pronged live session was reserved solely to digital platforms. Recorded on the renowned Red Barn Radio show in Tyler’s hometown of Lexington, KY, the album comprises of eight tracks altogether with six originals, including the single, ‘Whitehouse Road’, taken from Purgatory, spreading their weight across the album, with two additional covers making up the rest. ’Coming Down’, a track that tackles themes of loneliness and drink, originally by John R. Miller of the Fox Hunt and Prison Book Club appears first, before a favourite of Childers’ live set emerges, ‘Rock, Salt & Nails’ by Utah Phillips.

Following the release of Childers’ deeply personal debut album produced by Grammy Award-winning Sturgill Simpson, alongside his counterpart, David Ferguson (U2, Johnny Cash), the Kentucky-based singer/songwriter went on to sell-out a headline UK tour, including a stop at London’s Omeara. He now returns to the capital for a third time with a string of EU dates throughout August and September 2018, working towards his follow-up album in 2019.

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Artist’s website:

‘Whitehouse Road’ – official video: